By Kaitlyn R. Longstaff
Born and raised in Northeast Pennsylvania in an historic coal mine region, surrounded by red streams and Giardiasis, Brian Oram developed a strong interest in earth science through his experiences in the Boy Scouts of America of camping, hiking, and learning and living in a forest. Oram earned a Bachelor’s degree from Wilkes University and a Master’s of Science from Pennsylvania State University; he is now a licensed, professional geologist in Pennsylvania and a Certified Professional Soil Scientist through the Soil Science Society of America.
How did this background in soil and geology turn into a love for water and a desire to increase the availability of sustainable water management solutions? Oram’s interest in the water industry began during his undergraduate and graduate research. His graduate thesis was related to the bench scale testing of a diatomaceous earth filtration system to remove Giardia, bacteria, and other particles from water.
From Boy Scout to Company Leader
In 1989 Oram started the Homeowner Outreach Program at Wilkes University, where the goal was to provide educational outreach and water testing assessments to private well owners and private system owners throughout the U.S.
Oram’s consulting company, B.F. Environmental Consultants Inc., was also founded in 1989; it is a family-owned business that is run by Oram, his wife, Robin, and their daughter, Samantha. The primary focus of B.F. Environmental Consultants Inc., “is environmental consultant services related to water and wastewater development and operations, low impact development, and professional training.” It also maintains the Homeowner Outreach Program through its Know Your H2O Program. Oram states that his ultimate goal is “to work hard for my family and community and make this place better for my children.”
Oram is passionate about water and creating sustainable water management systems; he believes that “when the professional is properly trained, equipped, and informed, they become a significant field asset and human sensor that helps protect the environment and human health. They become the asset the community needs—they become the solution.” The mission of the Know Your H2O Program is to educate and inform communities, support grassroots efforts, and improve the quality of life. The Know Your H2O Program provides fact-based resources that often fall between the cracks when moving between regulatory agencies, certified laboratories, the water quality industry, and the public.
Creating a Global Outreach
Recently, the Know Your H2O Program launched a new web portal related to indoor and outdoor environments for communities, known as the Know Your H2O Portal. Their newest products include the Drinking Water Self-Diagnostic Tool and the Water Professional Directory. Oram is proud that the portal was launched without funding from any government or federal agency or association.
While B.F. Environmental primarily serves Pennsylvania, the Know Your H2O Portal is a global outreach system that uses fact-based information to educate water professionals and the general public. Oram says that the primary challenge is “getting the organization’s voice heard in a climate that is not based on science…but misinformation and ideology.” In order to address this struggle, the plan is to build more partnerships with professionals, which is the main reason the Water Professional Directory was created.
“My hope is to do more work through this program and less private consulting. We see a solid connection between the indoor environment and the outdoor environment and the need for community outreach,” says Oram about his 5- to 10-year goals.
Oram acknowledges many high points throughout his career such as being recognized by the Soil Science Society or America and being approved as a Certified Professional Soil Scientists. One of his largest projects is a 500,000 gpa land-based groundwater recharge system that uses treated wastewater to recharge quicker, maintain stream base flow, and protect the local environment.
He says “the key to success is to be honest and to try to be the solution. If you don’t know something, you learn and try to find the answer your client needs.” According to Oram, “the real item of value is not money or success, it is trust and making a positive change.” When you focus less on success itself, and more on making a difference, then you have achieved true success.
One last take-away from Oram might surprise some. He believes there is a lot of overlap when looking at sustainable water management solutions and soil/geology. “We need to stop thinking of water as drinking water, stormwater, wastewater, irrigation water, or industrial water, but look at water as a resource.”
About the author
Kaitlyn R. Longstaff is associate editor at Water Conditioning & Purification International magazine. She studied English at Southern New Hampshire University and Publishing at The George Washington University. She can be reached at [email protected].