Fostering Innovation by Helping Employees Pursue Passion Projects

Woodard & Curran’s mission includes a commitment to delivering “a continually expanding range of high-quality consulting engineering, science, and operations services.” Innovation is the key driver that helps us push the envelope for our clients and deliver the best solutions to their most complex problems. We established the Frank Woodard Leadership through Innovation Award in 2019 to provide an opportunity for our employees to pursue a project they are passionate about, while continuing to hold the protection of water and environment in the highest regard.

The employees who have received the award to date were allotted 80 hours of paid time to research, design, develop, and troubleshoot innovative ideas that are now being applied to our projects, adding incredible value for our clients.

Improving Groundwater Modeling

Thierry Rutaganira, Software Technology Manager, and Sercan Ceyhan, Technical Manager were among the first team to receive the Frank Woodard Leadership through Innovation Award in 2019. They used their time to develop ModelShare, a custom tool to improve our ability to develop groundwater models and share dynamic, comprehensive results with clients. Their aim was to improve our workflow efficiency and create an interface our clients could more easily understand. Conceiving of and developing ModelShare demonstrates the creative thinking at the forefront of our work in areas where we already excel. The software has already been leveraged for several water resources projects with positive feedback from clients.

Addressing the Biosolids Crisis

In 2020, Chloe Greenberg, Project Engineer, Greg Parks, National Innovation & Technical Support Manager, Alan Fabiano, O&M Technology Leader, and Kelley Begin, Senior Technical Leader saw an opportunity to address the disruption in the biosolids market affecting many of our clients. Traditional biosolids management methods have been upended due to emerging PFAS regulations, mandates diverting organics from landfills, increasing costs of transportation and disposal, and uncertainty among incentive programs and end use markets. Their concept — the Biosolids/Energy Evaluation and Resource Recovery (BEER2) Tool — looked at how to address the full range of both in-plant process alternatives and off-site end use alternatives to land applications. The team produced the initial module of BEER2 within a year of receiving the award. It has been used by our wastewater team of experts to support design work by assessing biosolids dewatering and associated technologies.

Interactive Three-Dimensional Models

Interactive three-dimensional (3D) models allow engineers and scientists to distill complex data into simple models and provide a more comprehensive view of their data than what is available in two-dimensional analysis. In 2022, Jack Baer, Engineer, Ralph Simon, Technical Manager, and Andres Diaz, Project Engineer proposed developing WC3D — a simple Python module for 3D modeling and visualization of surface and subsurface data tailored specifically to Woodard & Curran’s needs based on our water and environmental client projects. The WC3D is a powerful tool for analysis and communication, offering a more comprehensive way to view, share, and present complex data and technical ideas for the benefit of our engineers, scientists, and clients. The eye-catching 3D visuals the tool produces have already been leveraged for several water resources projects in California.

In one case, it was used to visualize geologic texture models and delineate new layers for a groundwater model. It has also been leveraged to help clients visualize cross-sections of new Airborne Electromagnetic (AEM) datasets in conjunction with existing groundwater model layers, topography, and existing boring log data to inform modifications to the groundwater model layers. In another case, it helped identify various preferential recharge pathways to site future groundwater recharge projects.

Making Granular Activated Carbon More Sustainable

Last year, the award was given to Dan Brockmeyer, Technical Manager, who proposed an innovative approach to use electricity to regenerate granular activated carbon used in PFAS water treatment systems. At the time of his proposal, we knew what the EPA was proposing for National Primary Drinking Water Regulation (NPDWR) for PFAS. Our clients are primarily relying on GAC as the most common method used to sequester and remove PFAS from water streams. Existing methods of regenerating GAC once it is saturated with PFAS are costly and not sustainable. It costs approximately $1.41 per pound of GAC for off-site regeneration, based on 2020 estimates from the EPA. An onsite system capable of doubling the GAC lifespan would reduce replacement costs to $0.70 per pound.

First, Dan created a model to investigate this system. Using that information, he constructed a bench scale reactor to take electrical measurements within the GAC. Data gathered from this testing may serve as a basis for designing a future full-scale system capable of regenerating GAC through electrochemical oxidation of PFAS.

Fostering Ownership and Honoring our Founder

When Frank Woodard passed away in March 2020, his business partner Al Curran said, “From the very beginning, Frank’s positive attitude and confidence in our ability to succeed at anything gave us the courage to reach beyond our weight class and take on anyone and anything to prove that we could be the best in the business.”

Frank and Al started this company in 1979 with a simple desire to create a different kind of consulting firm that focused on fostering community in a rewarding workplace. The Frank Woodard Leadership through Innovation Award honors Frank’s commitment to recognizing and rewarding employees to foster their career growth, encourage innovation, and inspire everyone to act like owners of the company. The recipients to date have demonstrated vision and leadership in the opportunities they have identified to help better serve our clients. We are looking forward to what the next award recipients will contribute to our industry.


Alyson Watson Chief Executive Officer & Chair of the Board

View All Posts

Scroll back to top of the page