As a full-time professor at Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology, Heath Edelman inspires and trains the next generation of water and wastewater operators through the Water and Environmental Technology (WET) program, the only Department of Environmental Protection accredited associate degree program in Pennsylvania.
Through the WET program, Heath gives students the skills that can earn them a sustainable, living wage, and ensures every Pennsylvanian has access to clean, safe drinking water. Heath was first drawn to the program because of its focus on elevating water and wastewater professionals to provide family-sustaining wages. “Helping that next generation of technician operators, engineers, and community leaders succeed is a natural fit with leadership as well as soil and water conservation,” says Heath.
Not only are communities starting to recognize the professionals that work in the water and wastewater facilities, but the importance of the facilities for community health. “The water industry is and has been going through a transformative process from one of waste disposal to resource recovery,” he says. “Many facilities are no longer just wastewater treatment plants, but have emerged as water resource recovery facilities. It’s an exciting time in our field.”
For years after moving to Lancaster from his hometown of Snyder County, he was fully entrenched in the environmental field but hadn’t been able to give back to Lancaster as much he’d like. That changed when Heath accepted the full-time role at Thaddeus Stevens. He describes that career change as the “part of my journey to give back to a field that has given so much to myself and my family.”
Heath wants to take what he learns through the Leadership Academy directly back to his students. “An immediate benefit is greater technical understanding of water issues that I can impart to my students. And the leadership component will help me to inspire students and others to have a vision for where we are and where we need to go with respect to our water resources here in Lancaster County.”
In the future, Heath hopes to become more entrenched in solving the emerging global water crisis through water action projects in places “that are much less fortunate than us regarding water resources,” he says. “We have a lot left to do here in Lancaster County, but I think our story and success needs to serve as an example to other places who are much further behind with addressing clean water issues.”
“Penn State and Lancaster Clean Water Partners have put together an unbelievably great mosaic of all of the places where people and water meet, and with that comes challenges and success stories,” Heath says. “Our monthly sessions have a strong field component, and it’s been a wonderful opportunity to have a boots on the ground observation of our water resources here in Lancaster County and to meet dozens of people who have a part in clean water initiatives.”
Stay tuned for updates from our scholars as they make their way through the Lancaster Watershed Leadership Academy.
“Penn State and Lancaster Clean Water Partners have put together an unbelievably great mosaic of all of the places where people and water meet, and with that comes challenges and success stories. Our monthly sessions have a strong field component, and it’s been a wonderful opportunity to have a boots on the ground observation of our water resources here in Lancaster County and to meet dozens of people who have a part in clean water initiatives.”
– Heath Edelman