USU Environmental Engineering Grad Runs Utah’s Newest Wastewater Treatment Plant
When Madeline Tennant decided to study environmental engineering at Utah State University, she wasn’t planning on a career in wastewater management. Having spent most of her life in Logan, she picked her major because she wanted to improve Cache Valley’s air quality.
USU environmental engineering alumna Madeline Tennant is the manager of Logan City’s new wastewater treatment facility. (USU/Matt Jensen)
“Wastewater was definitely not something I ever thought I would do, or was really interested in,” she said. “It didn’t sound very pleasant or fun to me.”
That changed when Tennant worked on a group project related to wastewater. After that experience, she learned Logan City was building a new wastewater treatment plant. She contacted city officials and asked to be involved, and an internship was created just for her.
Tennant started the internship in May 2018 when ground was officially broken for the new facility. She helped manage the project’s construction, tracking expenses and writing reports for the state in addition to other internship tasks.
When Tennant graduated in 2020, she was promoted from intern to engineer-in-training.
As the plant neared its completion date, the city was struggling to find a manager. Logan’s location made it difficult to attract potential managers because of the high number of wastewater jobs available in the Salt Lake Valley. Other staffers who could have held the position had not passed the required certification test. Tennant was told the city would like to offer her the job. If she could get certified, the position would be hers.
Treatment plant operators undergo years of training in engineering and chemistry and must pass rigorous certification exams. (USU/Matt Jensen)
“It was probably the hardest test I had ever taken,” she said.
After passing the exam, Tennant was named manager of the new treatment plant — an especially notable accomplishment for an engineer at such an early stage in her career.
“It’s definitely stressful, but I also love it so much,” Tennant said. “It’s such a cool opportunity and I’m so grateful to be here. I get to do different things every day. And I am learning new things every day. And even though I’m being pushed out of my comfort zone, I really enjoy that.”
The plant officially began operations earlier this year. Since wastewater treatment plants are only built every 30 or 50 years, participating in the construction of a large plant and being its first manager is a once-in-a-career opportunity.
“It’s fun for me to look back,” she said. “Even though I know there’s still a lot to learn, just seeing how much I’ve learned from the beginning is exciting.”