Frank E. Dalton

For his record of outstanding accomplishments as an environmental engineer heading one of the l argest urban water-reclamation districts in the nation, the Schools of Engineering are proud to present the Distinguished Engineering Alumnus Award to Frank E. Dalton.

General Superintendent
Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago
BSCE '51


On being a student

I entered Purdue in 1948, and the returning GIs made for a different climate on campus. All my buddies were GIs, and they set the tone. Study time was study time, and when it was time to have a good time, it was time to have a good time.

There was a wholeness about my Purdue education-it wasn't narrow or too academic. Teachers who worked in industrial design, for instance, would relate the design of Coke bottles to calculus. There was always a connection to the real world, which made the courses more interesting and gave me a broader exposure.

My civil engineering professors influenced me by relating to the practical aspects of education-they could tell you why you needed to do things in a certain way. Many of them were involved in designing actual things themselves, so there were strong connections with the real world.

The things that have stayed with me from my years at Purdue were the class-related projects that required a team effort to get things done. Whether you were testing materials or working in a hydraulics lab, you were never in it alone. You felt like part of a family. That experience really prepared me for the world of work: everything I've done has been part of a team effort. Nobody pulls it off alone.

On his professional career

When I was a student, I thought I'd wind up building the biggest and longest bridge in the country. It was a surprise to wind up working in my own back yard, in Chicago, involved in building deep tunnel systems. I've spent 30 years now with this organization, working with the biggest wastewater district in the world.

Taking the concept for the deep tunnel plan [an urban water management plan], putting it into construction, and moving it through the public arena has been one highlight of my years at the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District. The project has been receiving award after award, and it's changing the character of the city itself. Now we have another 200 usable miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, with bike paths that people are using and miles of parkland along the river system.

The biggest issue that concerns me is how to solve environmental problems with limited resources. As engineers it's our role to identify problems and the costs of solving those problems for elected officials. There are mountains of information, and the public wants to know about problems and solutions in simple terms so that they can judge if their tax money is being used properly.

On engineering

One of engineering's problems is communication-helping the public understand what the issues are. Educating the public and elected officials about engineering and environmental problems is a great challenge for us. We have to boil down that information so that it is usable by them.

1985:
Promoted to general superintendent of Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago. Responsible for collecting and treating wastewater for 125 municipalities and units of local government with total population of 5.2 million.

Conceived and led award-winning design and construction of $3.2 billion pollution and flood-control project to capture combined sewage overflows and relieve flooding in combined sewer urban area of 375 square miles.

Developed Chicagoland Metropolitan River Basin Program, a flood-control program that covers 500 square miles and seven urbanized watersheds.

1983:
Promoted to chief engineer of Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago. Responsible for planning, design, and construction of wastewater collection and treatment facilities and flood-control works for 875-square-mile area.
1963-83:
Assistant chief engineer and deputy chief engineer for Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago.
1953-63:
Consultant to various engineering firms.
1951-53:
Served in U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

BSCE '51, Purdue;MSCE '59, Illinois Institute of Technology.