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“Save the world mentality” motivates MDSPE

Icon of the Industry


Posted April 6, 2020

When a steady wind blew from Essex to Dundalk, Terry Neimeyer’s childhood neighborhood in southeast Baltimore was bathed in the distinctive aroma of the Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant. 

Neimeyer says it wasn’t his “life’s dream to work on a wastewater treatment plant.”  But as a student who excelled at math and science, Neimeyer was inspired to pursue an engineering career by his uncle, an engineer who served as Anne Arundel County’s director of public works. That uncle also alerted him to the imminent establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency and federal plans to set higher environmental standards for industry and infrastructure. That resonated with Neimeyer’s “save the world mentality.”

Through more than 40 years with KCI Technologies, Neimeyer has put that environmental commitment into action through work on infrastructure projects, adoption of new engineering technologies, lobbying to influence policy and efforts to establish higher standards for sustainability in infrastructure projects.  For that work and many other contributions to the engineering profession, MDSPE named Neimeyer our 2020 Icon of the Industry.

Although he may not have set out to work on a wastewater plant, Neimeyer engineered major improvements to numerous water and waste facilities. Asked about some of his favorite projects, he describes building a state-of-the-art landfill (equipped with a double liner) in Sussex County, Delaware in the early 1980s and engineering a sewer system to serve 3,000 mobile homes on Long Neck peninsula in Rehoboth Bay. It not only collected and treated the waste but piped it inland to fertilize animal feed crops. He was project manager for the Zebra Mussel protection system for Baltimore’s three major drinking water sources.  

A foreign, invasive species, the mussels “had the potential to infest and coat the clean water pipes,” he said. “They can get 18 inches deep so a 10-foot diameter pipe could be reduced by three feet and leave you with only seven feet of capacity. That would have had a dramatic impact on all the people who use the city water supply.”

And Neimeyer did end up working on the Back River Wasterwater Treatment Plant multiple times.  The projects, which included replacing the plant’s clarifier mechanisms, notably improved the aroma in his old neighborhood.

Neimeyer — who earned master’s degrees in environmental engineering from Johns Hopkins and business administration from Wilmington College and rose to serve as president, CEO and chairman of the board of KCI — has also had extensive involvements in professional and business organizations. 

Although chambers of commerce generally don’t generate business opportunities for engineering firms, Neimeyer became chairman of both the Baltimore County and Maryland chambers. That involvement “was a way for an engineering firm to get access to the political process and help influence policy,” he said.

Through the chambers and professional organizations, Neimeyer participated in successful campaigns to repeal a federal law that withheld three percent of company billings on government contracts and to increase the Maryland gas tax (and replenish the Transportation Trust Fund) during the O’Malley administration.

Committed to strengthening environmental practices, Neimeyer became a founding board member of the Institute of the Sustainable Infrastructure (ISI). 

“I believe we should leave this Earth in better shape than we found it. At the rate we were going, that wasn’t going to happen. To quote the Joni Mitchell song, we were going to pave paradise and put up a parking lot,” he said. 

Since the ISI’s inception, nearly 10,000 people (including Neimeyer) have become certified as Envision Sustainability Professionals “and they have certified hundreds of projects that previously wouldn’t have been sustainable. But with this rating tool, they follow more sustainable practices, such as staying away from wetlands, not taking prime farmland and recycling construction waste,” he said.

Currently, Neimeyer is participating in an effort by the American Society of Civil Engineers to create a consensus-based standard for sustainable infrastructure. 

“I think this could take sustainability and ratchet it up,” he said. “LEED never became a standard, but LEED became a prescribed entity by the United States GSA and many counties and cities which produced many more buildings that save energy, use less water and are employee sensitive.”

 When KCI built its new headquarters, it created the first LEED Gold building in Baltimore County. 

“I am hoping the same things will happen with a consensus sustainability standard for infrastructure,” he said. “I hope it will encourage and help major infrastructure owners to become more sustainable.”




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