Water Careers Go Back Four Generations in Chesebrough Family

April 18, 2018

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Patty Chesebrough (right) helps other WEFTEC 2016 volunteers build a rain garden in New Orleans during the annual Water Evnrionment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.) Community Service Project. Photo courtesy of Patty Chesebrough.

Patty Chesebrough (right) helps other WEFTEC 2016 volunteers build a rain garden in New Orleans during the annual Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.) Community Service Project. Photo courtesy of Patty Chesebrough.

Patty Chesebrough’s love of water can be traced to the childhood weekends she spent at Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire.

“I can still hear the sound of the twin Mercury motors on our boat and remember dad teaching me to listen to their harmonies to set the throttles,” Patty said.

Patty learned the importance of water stewardship as she watched her late father, Don Chesebrough, inspect boats equipped with sinks and toilets to ensure they would not discharge their waste into the lake. Don had been taught similar lessons decades earlier from his father, Cutler Chesebrough, a fisherman concerned with water quality and its effect on local fish.

From left, Patty and her late father Don Chesebrough climb the Alps in Zermatt, Switzerland, to celebrate Don’s 80th birthday in 2010. She attributes her water stewardship to Don. Photo courtesy of Patty Chesebrough.

From left, Patty and her late father Don Chesebrough climb the Alps in Zermatt, Switzerland, to celebrate Don’s 80th birthday in 2010. She attributes her interest in water stewardship to Don. Photo courtesy of Patty Chesebrough.

Don had a long career in the rivers and lakes programs within the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services’ (NHDES) Wastewater Engineering Bureau.

Of his many contributions to NHDES, Don is best remembered for his efforts to protect New Hampshire lakes, Patty said. Years after retiring, he continued volunteering to train his successors to ensure lake conservation remained a primary focus.

“Of course, Dad’s dedication to protecting water quality rubbed off on me, too,” Patty said. She loves to tell the story of how she became a water professional. “It was definitely because of my dad — but not as directly as people might think.”

Patty’s first exposure to the water sector came at age 16 when she volunteered to drive her father to the New Hampshire Water Pollution Control Association’s (Londonderry) annual clambake.

From left, Don and Patty spend time together at a New Hampshire Water Pollution Control Association (Londonderry) summer outing. Photo courtesy of Charlie Tyler.

From left, Don and Patty spend time together at a New Hampshire Water Pollution Control Association (Londonderry) summer outing. Photo courtesy of Charlie Tyler.

“I began attending this event every June and met lots of amazing people, all of whom shared my dad’s passion for clean water,” Patty said. Among them was the man who later became her boss at NHDES, where she landed her first wastewater job in 1990.

After obtaining an engineering degree and professional engineering license, Patty launched a 25-year career in water and wastewater contract operations. Today she manages water, sewer, and stormwater systems as a technical leader for Weston & Sampson (Peabody, Mass.).

During WEFTEC 2015, Chesebrough (fifth from left) competed in Operations Challenge on the New England Water Environment Association team, the Seacoast Sewer Snakes. She stands with competitors on other teams during the competition. Photo courtesy of Kieffer Photography.

During WEFTEC 2015, Chesebrough (fifth from left) competed in Operations Challenge on the New England Water Environment Association team, the Seacoast Sewer Snakes. She stands with competitors on other teams during the competition. Photo courtesy of Kieffer Photography.

Through it all, Patty has been an active Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.) member. She began by serving as an Operations Challenge judge before competing on teams from Massachusetts (2010–2014) and New Hampshire (2015–present). She has also been active in WEF service projects, including the construction of bioswales to slow and collect stormwater during WEFTEC 2016.

Like her father and grandfather, Patty uses the power of education to promote water stewardship.

“I love to teach — operators, peers, students, public officials, and others,” she said. When her son, Anthony Passariello, was born, she began teaching him too.

From right, Chesebrough sits with her son’s Christopher Passariello and Anthony Passariello after a family hike in 2015. She has committed to educating her family about wastewater treatment processes, water conversation, and pollution prevention. Photo courtesy of Chesebrough.

From right, Chesebrough sits with her sons Christopher Passariello and Anthony Passariello after a family hike in 2015. She has committed to educating her family about wastewater treatment processes, water conservation, and pollution prevention. Photo courtesy of Chesebrough.

“At age four, he was already relaying to grandpa that, ‘green pipe is for poop and black pipe is for drinking,’” she said. “He asked me if he could bring a piece of PVC pipe for show and tell at his preschool.”

Now 16, Anthony is enrolled in an Advanced Placement Environmental Science course that includes a field trip to the local water and wastewater treatment facilities.

“I have learned a lot from my mother’s career,” Anthony said. “Many people are willing to help conserve water and prevent pollution, but they simply don’t know how. I believe education is an important part of water management.”Anthony says he isn’t currently considering a career in water or wastewater. But then, maybe he just hasn’t accompanied his mother to a clambake yet.

— Mary Bufe, WEF Highlights

My Water Legacy Showcases Passing Along Tradition of Working for Water

The Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.) shares stories about working in the water sector through the #MyWaterLegacy campaign. Launched at WEFTEC 2016, this effort brings attention to the value of membership, water sector leadership and innovation, and workforce development.

My Water Legacy articles in WEF Highlights feature members who have passed down the tradition of actively participating in WEF and working in the water sector.

Do you know a WEF member who has mentored others in the water sector or a family with multiple generations of WEF members and water sector professionals? Contact Jennifer Fulcher, WEF Highlights editor, at jfulcher@wef.org.

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