On its surface, bioremediation might appear to be a singular, specialized industry, however, when thoroughly analyzed it becomes clear there are several categories and sub-categories, each requiring a unique skillset. Thus, it is not often you come across someone such as Richard Bewley, who possesses broad yet specialized experience in environmental remediation. As the Remediation Practice Leader at AECOM, a REGENESIS client and multinational integrated infrastructure firm, Dr. Bewley represents a rare combination of diverse, yet specialized experience in environmental remediation. Based in the Manchester office, in the north of England, Dr. Bewley performs several key roles at AECOM. “I act in several capacities,” shares Bewley. “I provide technical direction for a number of remediation projects, but not exclusively involving bioremediation and/or chemical treatment. I also provide technical support to a wide range of projects, including remedial appraisals, cost estimating for remedial scenarios, and addressing issues relating to environmental chemistry. In this capacity I have the role of Laboratory Quality manager for our UK & Ireland operations. I also serve as Technical Director for our remediation services, which involves facilitating technical developments in our remediation field and working with colleagues in site investigation and risk assessment. Lastly, I am Technical Practice Group (TPG) leader for our Remediation Services’ Technical Practice Group, one of over 40 of AECOM’s TPGs in the environmental field that facilitate knowledge sharing among members across the globe.”
Prior to his studies and graduation from the University of Edinburgh, where he received a degree in Ecological Science, Dr. Bewley was drawn to the sciences from childhood experiences many of us can relate to. These experiences helped shape his future career path. “Science in the 1960’s could be really exciting for a child with an imagination,” begins Bewley. “Rockets going into outer space, gleaming new laboratories with bubbling concoctions of strange chemicals, and other science-based discoveries fascinated me. So my decision to become a scientist probably took hold around the age of six, when I decided that being a locomotive train engineer offered future limitations with the phasing out of steam trains.” When concerns over our planet’s environment and its fragility became commonplace, Dr. Bewley decided on a career in environmental studies. He continues, “At the end of the 1960’s, the environmental movement was just starting, and I decided that a career in chemical pollution was a worthwhile pursuit. At university, I found microscopic examination of the soil an absolutely fascinating medium to study – I was immediately drawn to the range of chemicals, physical surfaces and microorganisms present. I spent several years looking at the effect contaminant chemicals were having on soil microorganisms, and then bioremediation was born and I was able to see what microorganisms could do to treat environmental contaminants.”
After graduating from the University of Edinburgh, Dr. Bewley earned his PhD in Environmental Microbiology from Bristol University, followed by four and a half years of postdoctoral research in North America (two years at NYU, New York, followed by two and a half years at the University of Calgary in Calgary, Alberta). He then returned to the UK in 1984 to take up the position of Research Scientist at an agricultural and environmental biotechnology company that was starting out in Cardiff, Wales. Continues Bewley, “I happened to be in the right place at the right time, undertaking what was the first major bioremediation project in the UK in the late 1980’s. This project attracted significant publicity both in Europe and overseas, and proved to be somewhat of a harbinger to my next position as Scientific & Technical Manager. Afterwards, in 1990, I joined Dames & Moore as a Senior Environmental Scientist.” While he started as and remains a bioremediation specialist, Dr. Bewley’s continued involvement in a wide range of remediation projects involving physical, chemical and biological processes eventually led to his current role in Technical Leadership for AECOM’s Remediation team. Married and the proud father of two daughters, aged 15 and 12, his free time includes long walks, visiting places of historic and scenic interest, keeping abreast of current politics, and listening to music.
In working with REGENESIS, Dr. Bewley cites mutual respect and swift responsiveness as two examples of how AECOM and REGENESIS have forged a successful partnership. Shares Bewley, “I have had a long association with a number of people within REGENESIS. I respect their technical knowledge and always find them responsive to questions. They are prepared to invest up-front time in talking through technical concepts for developing specific solutions.” With regard to which REGENESIS products AECOM uses most frequently, he feels it is somewhat challenging to limit the list to just one or two. Continues Bewley, “It’s difficult to say which REGENESIS products we use the most. In volume, probably HRC® (Hydrogen Release Compound) and its associated products, which are effective in treating issues at some especially difficult sites, though ORC Advanced® (Oxygen Release Compound) use is widespread, especially for ‘polishing’ purposes.”
When asked about key aspects of his work, he acknowledges the rewards and satisfaction that come from achieving the objectives of a remediation project. And the most demanding aspect? “Dealing with the uncertainty that belies all environmental projects in a commercial context.” As for how he has seen the industry change over the years, Dr. Bewley points to the trend of companies offering an enhanced range of comprehensive environmental remediation services. Adds Bewley, “The degree of integration of different approaches and the level of technical knowledge that has grown around particular areas of the field are two examples that come to mind of how our industry has evolved.” And where might the future take us in environmental remediation? Concludes Bewley, “To me, the issue is one of further integration with physical and chemical techniques. I think we’ve gone a long way from working in silos. We now see bioremediation in many instances as part of an overall remedial strategy. I see a continuation of this as being crucial, particularly in meeting the challenges of cleaning up especially difficult environments, such as dual porosity aquifers.”