In Memoriam – Noel McKay Hurley Sr., WEF, WEASC, and Water Sector Leader

April 21, 2016


Photo courtesy of Janet H. Cann.

Photo courtesy of Janet H. Cann.

Noel McKay Hurley Sr., water sector leader and life member of the Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.) and the Water Environment Association of South Carolina (WEASC), died Feb. 4.

Hurley worked for the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) for nearly 35 years, becoming chief of its Bureau of Environmental Laboratories before his retirement.

Hurley joined both WEF and WEASC, a WEF member association (MA), in 1963 and participated as an active leader in both organizations.

In 1994, WEASC established the Noel M. Hurley Membership award to recognize his dedicated service, especially in the area of membership recruitment.

“To this day, the award is presented to the MA member that has recruited the most members on an annual basis,” said Andrew W. Fairey, chief operating officer of the Charleston (S.C.) Water System.

“Hurley was a constant supporter of membership in WEF and the MA. He was always recruiting new members,” Fairey said. “While he was an accomplished chemist and microbiologist, Mr. Hurley understood and knew the value of people.”

Early life’s work

Hurley was born Jan. 7, 1932, and served as a medic in the U.S. Army from 1951 to 1953 during the Korean conflict. He recently received the Korean War Service Medal. After returning from the war, he attended the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, and earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry in 1958. He received a master’s degree in microbiology from Clemson (S.C.) University in 1968.

Noel McKay Hurley began working for the South Carolina Pollution Control Authority, now known as the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, in 1958. Photo courtesy of Andrew Fairey.

Noel McKay Hurley began working for the South Carolina Pollution Control Authority, now known as the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, in 1958. Photo courtesy of Andrew Fairey.

Starting a career in water

In 1958, Hurley began working for the South Carolina Pollution Control Authority, now known as SCDHEC, in a mobile laboratory. He later took over management of a laboratory facility near Grace Bleachery, S.C. He became pollution control supervisor in 1970, division director in 1972, and chief of the Bureau of Environmental Laboratories in 1976.

“He always had a word of encouragement and support. He was an icon in the environmental field in South Carolina,” Fairey said.

During his career, Hurley collected and analyzed water samples across multiple counties. He dealt with water quality concerns from citizens, worked to establish a water basin approach to stream monitoring, helped establish water quality standards for the state, and helped establish the state’s oil spill response team, Fairey said. As bureau chief, Hurley oversaw the analytical services, air quality divisions, and the lab certification program.

Mentoring the next generation

In 1972, Hurley hired Fairey at SCDHEC as a summer intern and later as an employee in the environmental laboratory.

“Hurley was the primary reason I became involved in the environmental movement, and he was a mentor to me throughout his life,” Fairey said. Fairey attributes his own long career to Hurley and explained that Hurley mentored Fairey’s brother in addition to many others.

“Hurley worked tirelessly through the state technical colleges to help train treatment plant operators when the certification process was implemented. This was at night after his job requirements were met,” Fairey said. “He constantly went above and beyond the call of duty to help improve the water quality in South Carolina.”

When Bob King started working for the state agency in 1972, Hurley was his supervisor. Hurley was “extremely caring and very understanding as a supervisor,” King said. “He was very involved with water quality assessments on streams, lakes, and facilities in the state as well as later supervising laboratory work for our state’s environmental sampling program. He always was willing to give of his time and energy to assist the association.”

Photo courtesy of Cann.

Photo courtesy of Cann.

Volunteering to serve the environment

Hurley served as WEASC secretary from 1975 to 1992 and chaired the WEASC Historical Committee. While chair of the historical committee, he authored the 70th anniversary history of the WEASC. He also served as member of the WEF House of Delegates representing WEASC from 1982 to 1985.

After retiring from SCDHEC in 1992, Hurley continued to be an active member of the water sector community. He worked part time for Rogers and Callcott Engineers Inc. (Greenville, S.C.). He also served on the U.S. Department of Natural Resources Committee for Lancaster County; Catawba County, S.C., Catawba River Task Force; the Environmental Subcommittee of the South Carolina Tri-County Wastewater Committee, formed by the York, Lancaster, and Chester counties; and the Clemson Extension Advisory Committee for Lancaster.

Receiving awards

Hurley received numerous recognitions from WEASC for his service. He was inducted into the 5S Society in 1982; received the Arthur Sidney Bedell Award in 1978, the Noel M. Hurley Membership award in 1994, and W.T. Linton Service Award in 1992; and became a 50-year member in 2008.

Environmental commitment runs in the family

Hurley and his wife of 58 years, Ann Maness Hurley, had three children – Janet, Noel Jr., and Keplar. Hurley passed his commitment to the environment and volunteering to his children. All three entered professions in the environmental field. Janet Hurley Cann, senior project manager with Alliance Consulting Engineers Inc. (Columbia, S.C.), has been a member of WEASC since 1985 and of WEF since 1987. At WEASC, Cann has served as secretary and president and followed in her father’s footsteps by becoming a WEF delegate.

“[Hurley] was a wonderful person who represented our profession and the state and national association with great dignity,” King said.

— Jennifer Fulcher, WEF Highlights

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