Ed McBean

Dr. Ed McBean is a Canada Research Chair in Water Supply Security, Professor, and Assistant Dean of External Partnerships at the College of Physical and Engineering Science at the University of Guelph. Dr. McBean is also the Wastewater node leader for the SOWC – a segment of the platform that is supporting capacity for the development and testing of innovations in wastewater management. As SOWC Wastewater node leader, in partnership with the City of Guelph, he has overseen the creation of the SOWC Guelph Wastewater Facility. This new facility provides both industry and academic users with the capacity for research, development, testing, and demonstration of wastewater technologies and services.

His research focuses on the statistical interpretation of data regarding the transport/attenuation of chemicals and pathogens in both the natural and engineered environment, and risk assessment/management to determine potential dangers to water supply systems. This type of research improves the ability of decision makers to detect threats to the water supply systems, facilitating more informed judgments aimed at water and wastewater systems.

Prior to taking up his positions with the University of Guelph, Dr. McBean was the President of CRA Engineering Inc. and Vice-President of Conestoga-Rovers & Associates, an environmental engineering firm of 3000-plus personnel with headquarters in Waterloo, Ontario. During his time in industry, he worked predominantly on risk assessment, water supply concerns, fate and transport issues, and statistical interpretation of environmental data.

He obtained his B.A.Sc. from the University of British Columbia, and M.Sc., C.E., and Ph.D. in Civil Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.).

Questions & Answers with Dr. McBean

What do you aim to accomplish through your work?
To close the gap between researchers and practitioners, and to advance technological expertise to improve resource recovery. Wastewater treatment is no longer just a means of improving discharge quality, it is to ensure that we are in the resource recovery business.

What is unique about the capacity you are leading within SOWC’s Wastewater node?
The Guelph Wastewater Facility is unique in North America (and perhaps the world) in that we can facilitate testing of alternative technologies for a pilotscale facility for an extensive array of feedstocks from different takeoff locations from an advanced wastewater plant. We have both on-site and off-site analytical capabilities for testing a wide array of constituents to facilitate the performance of wastewater technologies.

What type of collaborative opportunities are you looking for through the SOWC Guelph Wastewater Facility?
Collaborative opportunities are being sought for combining the expertise needed to ensure innovative technology evaluations are effective and address the key issues. Hence, we are open for industry-alone, researchers alone, or any combination of industry and academic partnership, to ensure the necessary expertise is ‘brought to the table’.

How is your research translated into real-world water solutions?
My research has been widely incorporated into design of sampling programs, as a means of determining how many data are needed, and to determine if there are findings that show significant differences (e.g. is the treatment technology demonstrating statistically significant impacts).

Can you provide a specific example?
Assessments of significance testing between two technologies rely on hypothesis testing, but in many situations, the assumptions of the t-test (for statistical analysis) are violated. As alternatives, there are approximate tests but the degree and implication of the approximations (e.g. Cochrane’s Approximation to the Behrens-Fisher t=test) influences the interpretation of the findings. The assessments have influenced governmental regulations on the appropriateness of alternative tests of impact.

How has the SOWC helped support your water research?
Use of the wastewater pilot facility is just getting started. We have been meeting with potential clients for the wastewater platform and are excited about some new cooperative ventures!