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UH Distinguished Professor Emeritus to Be Honored by American Academy of Environmental Engineers

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Amanda Strassner, Public Relations Intern
James Symons, Professor Emeritus, Environmental Engineering
James Symons, Professor Emeritus, Environmental Engineering

University of Houston environmental engineering professor emeritus James M. Symons has been invited to Washington, D.C., to receive the 2003 Edward J. Cleary Award from the American Academy of Environmental Engineers (AAEE).

William C. Anderson, executive director of AAEE, informed Symons that the award is presented "to a Diplomate to recognize: 'outstanding performance in the management of environmental protection enterprises conducted under either public or private auspices."

Previous awardees include William D. Ruckelshaus and William K. Reilly, both former administrators of the US Environmental Protection Agency, and William J. Carroll, former president of the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Symons will be recognized at the Academy's awards luncheon on April 9 at the National Press Club.

"Needless to say I am very honored to get this award," says Symons. "I'm also surprised; I didn't even know I was nominated."

Symons joined UH in 1982 and taught until 1997. At the time of his retirement, Symons was the Cullen Distinguished Professor of Civil Engineering. Since then, he has been named Cullen Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Civil Engineering. Symons served as chair of the civil engineering department from 1985 to 1989 and as director of the environmental engineering program from 1983 to 1985, and then again from 1989 to 1994. He taught both undergraduate classes in civil engineering and graduate level classes for environmental engineers.

Symons received the Chi Epsilon Excellence in Teaching Award for the Southwest District and was voted an Outstanding Teacher of 1994 by the student chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers. He received two Outstanding Teacher Awards from the Cullen College of Engineering, in 1994 and 1996. Also in 1996, Symons was awarded the Esther Farfel Award--the highest award any UH faculty member can receive--to recognize his teaching, research and service.

Symons' research focused primarily on controlling chemical by-products formed during the disinfection of drinking water. His work in this area led to major improvements in drinking water quality worldwide and earned him the Sigma Xi Outstanding Faculty Research Award and the Senior Faculty Research Award from the Cullen College of Engineering.

He was elected into the National Academy of Engineering in 1994. In his videotape "1974 Revisited: An Historical Review of the Disinfection By-products Issue," Symons incorporated his work on the formation of chemical by-products during drinking water disinfection with earlier research.

Symons is an honorary member of the American Water Works Association (AWWA), in which he has been active for the past forty years, receiving its Research Award and numerous Best Paper Awards. For AWWA, in 1992, he wrote the book "Plain Talk About Drinking Water," written in factual but non-technical language to make the material accessible to the general public. Now in its fourth edition, the book has sold 122,000 copies to date. This instructive, accessible material is also published in a video format under the title "Tap Water -Terror or Treasure?"

Symons completed "The Drinking Water Dictionary," a compilation of technical drinking water terms, for AWWA in 2000, the culmination of eight years of effort by a 23-person committee of experts. The 506-page dictionary is now a standard reference for the drinking water profession with nearly 2,500 copies already sold.

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