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Engineer Helps Bring Clean Drinking Water to Rural North Dakota

By Kim Singer
ScreenShot20180709at3.55.37PM.pngHeading into the spring semester of his senior year in college, Philip Markwed already had a job lined up for after graduation with Bartlett & West, an engineering firm in Bismarck. His time as an undergrad involved spending two years studying preengineering at BSC and then transferring to North Dakota State University where he graduated with a 4.0 GPA. He largely attributes his success in college to the accessibility of his BSC professors when he took several difficult courses, such as Introduction to Differential Equations. He’s especially grateful for BSC professors Dan Leingang, David Sagsveen and the late Scott Klingenstein.

Although Markwed knew coming out of high school what career he wanted to pursue, he wasn’t quite sure what type of engineer he wanted to be. “I had heard good things about the pre-engineering program there. I used that time at BSC to determine which discipline I wanted to go into.”

Markwed was able to make an educated decision to become a civil engineer, and has been with Bartlett & West for eight years. He has been promoted to project manager, but still remembers his first day on the job very well. He was tasked with being the resident engineer observing construction of a $16.7 million intake and water treatment plant that would supply the Standing Rock Indian Reservation with clean drinking water.

“My first day, I actually went to the project site. We spent two and a half years monitoring construction of the intake and the entire treatment plant. I saw the site go from a bare patch of prairie to a facility that will serve the entire reservation with drinking water. It was a long, arduous process, but probably one of the best learning experiences someone could ask for right out of college.”

Although Markwed didn’t have a lot of professional engineering experience going into that large project, he had helped with his family’s excavating company when he was a teenager. The work involved installing water and sewer lines, which gave him on-the-job experience and led him down this career path. That, coupled with his college education and the two summers he spent working as a survey assistant for Houston Engineering, equipped him well for the task.

“Since then I’ve done several ground water treatment plants, utilizing ground water wells and pressure filters, which is a lot simpler process than that first surface water facility. But, a big learning curve I’ve had on some of these projects is expanding on an existing water treatment plant while it’s still in service. There’s a whole lot of coordination as far as keeping it in service and meeting set time parameters, so that you can serve the existing users, but still expand the facility at the same time. That’s an interesting challenge.”

Even in the midst of the challenges, Markwed is able to see his job as rewarding. He’s currently working with one of his larger clients to do a significant pipeline expansion that will mean access to good quality drinking water for more than 500 users in Logan and Kidder counties.

“That’s 500 more that will have quality drinking water in rural North Dakota. If the users have a well right now, they may not have great quality or they might have shortage issues if their well goes down. Now, they’re connected to a consistent rural water supply. It improves their quality of life, and definitely gives me satisfaction in my job. It makes it easy to take pride in the work if you can see results of helping communities.”