Environmental Points: Waves from Earth’s First Day 51 years ago in Ann Arbor

Thursday April 22nd is Earth Day and due to the pandemic, most of the celebrations this year will be virtual. Even so, the Earth Day idea has endured since it all began with a series of classes at the University of Michigan in 1970. UM professor for civil and environmental engineering Glen Daigger was there and discussed with David Fair from WEMU about these exciting days and what the future can bring.

Environmental issues: 04/21/21


  • Earth Day celebrations began on the University of Michigan campus fifty-one years ago. The Teach-In on the Environment was an event that helped crystallize the public consensus that something needed to be done. On March 11, 1970, a 50,000-strong squad packed the newly christened Crisler Arena to kick off what has been called “the most famous little-known event in American history.”
  • The four-day teach-in was successful. Doug Scott, who was a 1970 graduate student in the Forest Recreation Program at the School of Natural Resources and co-chaired ENACT, the group that organized the teach-in, said it was something anyone could leave behind. He noted that it wasn’t just about keeping the place we live clean, it was also about American style, wanting to be involved and present.
  • Glen Daigger is a professor of civil and environmental engineering. He was a young adult at teach-ins in Ann Arbor. He recalls that he was already outraged by a poisoned land and decided that enough was enough. “Rivers burned, air pollution was terrible,” he said. “There was a gut feeling that humanity was destroying the planet through the things we did and the way we lived our lives. We destroyed it for other living beings, but also for ourselves. “
  • Prof. Daigger has carried on the legacy of the first day on earth throughout his career. For decades he has led research into water treatment, which promotes purification or the water in connection with the recycling of nitrogen and phosphorus, which are reprocessed into useful fertilizers.
  • Today, Daigger and his colleagues at Ann Arbor’s sewage treatment plant are optimizing the chemical and biological variables of a laboratory-scale system that purifies water using activated biofilms – thick skins of pollutant-eating bacteria that are grown on specially designed membranes. The team plans to get the technology up and running in a prototype wastewater treatment plant to be built on an island in the Yangtze River near Nanjing, China. The development called Eco Hi-Tech Island is being built to introduce new environmental ideas, including the activated biofilm system. “China is essentially doing what the US did in the 1970s through about the mid-1980s to set up its basic wastewater treatment infrastructure,” Daigger said. “You are implementing more new systems than anywhere else in the world. So working with them could mean the world will see the benefits of this technology in five instead of 20 years. “

About Glen Daigger

Glen Daigger is currently Professor of Engineering Practice at the University of Michigan and President and Founder of One Water Solutions, an engineering and innovation company. He is widely recognized for his contributions, has received a number of national and international awards, and is a member of the US National Academy of Engineering.

Over the course of his career, Glen Daigger has developed into an internationally recognized expert in wastewater treatment and water quality management for municipal and industrial systems with particular expertise in biological processes. He is widely used and author or co-author of more than 200 technical articles, four books and several technical manuals. He is a past professor and chair in environmental systems engineering at Clemson University.

Glen Daigger has held senior positions with the Water Environment Federation, the American Academy of Environmental Engineers, and the Water Environment Research Foundation. He was also Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer of the international consulting firm CH2M HILL. Glen Daigger was with CH2M Hill for over 35 years, creating 11 wastewater treatment process patents that helped set US wastewater treatment standards.

Glen Daigger has been a member of IWA (and IWSA) for over 45 years and was a senior vice president and member of the finance and investment committee before being elected President-elect in 2009. At the IWA World Water Congress 2010 in Montreal he began his first term as president of the association. At the end of his second term in 2014, Glen Daigger was named a Distinguished Fellow of the IWA. (Source: * quoted directly * https://iwa-network.org/people/glen-daigger/)

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– David Fair is the WEMU News Director and presenter of the Morning Edition on WEMU. You can contact David at 734.487.3363 on Twitter @DavidFairWEMU or email him at [email protected]

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