Water research and workforce development center opens in Gwinnett
A new center for research and workforce development focused on the water industry is now open in Gwinnett County.
The Water Tower has a co-working space for engineering firms, the staff is collaborating with consultants and academics, there are labs for research and plans to host jobs trainings.
“I think most people, even a lot of people in our industry, for that matter, take water for granted,” said Melissa Meeker, the CEO of the Water Tower.
She said she wants to help more people think about water, to collaborate on new ideas around drinking water and wastewater. She also hopes more people will consider working in the field.
“There’s fantastic jobs,” she said. “Skilled trades. A GED education can make a very nice salary with benefits, all the way through a PhD.”
She said it makes sense for the facility to be in Gwinnett, a county that’s been interested in water policy. The Water Tower is next door to a plant that’s been seen as a leader in water treatment technology, she said. And her facility will be.
The labs will be set up to study water pollutants, including tough-to-deal-with problems like PFAS, man-made chemicals that are very slow to break down that have been found in air, water and soil around the world.
“I think the potential for this approach and the facilities that support the people that are going to be here are going to make it a world class water research facility,” said Chris Impellitteri, the director for research and development at The Water Tower, who recently joined the organization after decades with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The labs aren’t totally finished yet, though Congresswoman Carolyn Bourdeaux successfully lobbied for a few hundred thousand dollars from the federal budget to come to the facility for more lab equipment.
At the official ribbon cutting Wednesday, Katherine Zitsch, director of the Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District, admitted to the crowd that initially she didn’t really get the idea behind the Water Tower, but she gets it now.
“It’s about fostering a new way of thinking, and doubling down on the importance of water to our economy and our way of life,” she said.