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Technical Specialist Spotlight: Water Resource Engineering Specialist Heather Doolittle

Heather Doolittle is a Water and Wastewater Engineer specializing in water resource engineering projects. She has worked with clients on distribution system hydraulic modeling, water system master planning for water main, pump station, and storage tank upgrades, and water facilities capital planning.

Doolittle brings a different perspective to her work due to her unique educational background. Attending Bates College in Lewiston, Maine she studied geology and chemistry, before going on to obtain her Master of Science in Civil and Environmental Engineering from the University of Maine. Before coming to Tighe & Bond she worked as a geologist focusing on site assessments, and groundwater and soil characterization. The critical thinking and communication skills that she developed during her liberal arts education and her geology experience built the base of Doolittle’s engineering career and are applicable to everything she does to this day.

“I have always been interested in the world around me so studying water resources was a natural fit. It’s rewarding to work in an industry focused on delivering a clean, safe, reliable water supply to the communities we live in.” – Heather Doolittle, Staff Engineer

Now working from Tighe & Bond’s Portland, Maine office, Doolittle is finding solutions for clients throughout New England who are facing complex challenges with their water distribution systems. A water utility in Massachusetts had significant and increasing discolored water complaints caused by manganese in their water. Doolittle and her colleagues worked with the client to quickly build a distribution system model for both hydraulic and water quality evaluations. Using the model, the team performed a spatial analysis to correlate customer complaint data with flow velocity, flow reversal, and source contribution from water wells with historically high levels of manganese.

This approach allowed the project team to identify water mains releasing manganese during high water demand periods and design a phased approach for water main cleaning. Being a coastal community in New England, the client had a significant seasonal customer base which posed a challenge in identifying the differences in seasonal water use. By capturing the spatial changes in water use between summer and winter months, the team was able to model seasonal flow patterns to help identify the source of the manganese. Doolittle and the team used ice pigging (injecting an ice slurry to clean the pipes) and annual maintenance with unidirectional flushing which led to a significant decrease in water quality complaints.

Overcoming project challenges gives Doolittle a sense of pride and keeps her working toward even more innovative solutions for the future.  “One of the things that I love about my position is the exposure to so many different water systems. Every water system is unique and with that comes unique goals and challenges for operation and service.”

Even outside of work, Heather Doolittle’s interest in water resources has her exploring places like the shores of Mackworth Island in Maine.