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My Stantec Story: Sean Comber on being a technical specialist in our Water team

March 01, 2024

Sean, a technical specialist in environmental chemistry, shares his experience at Stantec

In the My Stantec Story series, our designers, engineers, marketers, project managers, and leaders come together to share how their career journeys at Stantec have shaped their lives and moved them closer to their goals.

Tell us about your role…

I’m a technical specialist in environmental chemistry within the Environmental Water Quality group. I support projects requiring knowledge of the sources, fate, and impacts of pollutants in the environment. The majority of my work is for the water industry. Coming from an academic background, I also seek to collaborate with universities and other stakeholders to make sure outputs from projects have the strongest possible scientific basis.

What attracted you to a career at Stantec?

After decades spent working as a consultant, principal scientist, and professor, I moved back into consultancy. My work at Stantec offers me the opportunity to re-engage with old colleagues and to work with significant environmental challenges facing the water industry around combined sewer overflows, inland bathing waters, and water resources—particularly within my own region in the UK. During my time here, I’ve undertaken a range of field, laboratory, and desk-based projects into the sources and fate of chemicals within the environment for the chemical industry, water companies, the European Union, and regulators. My role has included proposal writing, project management, business development, and technical support. 

What do you enjoy most about your role?

It’s rare to find environmental chemists within consultancy, so my role keeps me busy. Consequently, I’ve been involved with a variety of challenging projects such as wastewater treatment, water reuse, nature-based solutions, and water transfer schemes. The water industry is coming under increased pressure regarding emerging chemicals of concern such as pharmaceuticals and per fluorine substances (sometimes called forever chemicals). My experience with their sources and fate means I can add value to numerous projects. 

How has your personal and professional development been supported at Stantec?

Having already had decades of experience within the water sector and wider experience within academia, my professional and developmental needs differ markedly from a graduate’s. Nonetheless, I’m driven by a desire for knowledge and to see that regulation applied to the water industry is rigorous and science based. It’s very important to me in terms of keeping current with the latest research and Stantec supports me with up to two paid subscriptions to professional bodies. I’ve also been supported to attend and chair a session at a Society for Ecotoxicity and Chemistry conference last year in Dublin. My technical specialist role has provided me with the opportunity to expand my knowledge and develop skills for the source apportionment of bacteria within bathing waters for South West Water (SWW).  

In my opinion, there are many benefits of working at Stantec—including the coverage across the country regarding offices, the comfortable and friendly working environment, and the variety of work that is available.

What has been the standout project for you during your time at Stantec?

Currently, I’m helping put wastewater assets into perspective as a source of bacteria within a catchment and the potential impacts on inland bathing waters. This work supports SWW’s Green Recovery Initiative, which is undertaking pilots on the rivers Dart and Tavy in Devon to identify options for improvements to SWW assets—to support better water quality at bathing locations. The work requires monitoring of sources of bacteria within the catchments and developing methodologies for predicting the impacts of treated wastewater, agricultural runoff, and meteorological conditions on water quality. Working closely with stakeholders to establish effective collaboration and data sharing, we’re working towards effective risk assessment and predictions for bathing water quality.    

What are your ambitions for the future at Stantec?

I would like to increase greater awareness of Stantec’s reputation for environmental consultancy and the work that we do within the local region. Working on the inland bathing water project for the Rivers Dart and Tavy brings me into contact with numerous stakeholders including regulators, wildlife trusts, community groups, and charities. Having face-to-face meetings with these groups provides the opportunity for me to get the Stantec name across—and being born and bred in Devon helps me demonstrate local knowledge and commitment.   

What are your passions outside of work?

Being outside in the environment is my passion, whether I’m spending time with my family, walking with my wife around the Westcountry, skiing, or surfing. I’m also motorbike mad—I own a number of classic trail bikes and enjoy riding the unpaved roads of Devon and beyond. I’ve also been a lifelong angler, hence my interest in water quality in the region and beyond.

Why should others join the Stantec team?

In my opinion, there are many benefits of working at Stantec—including the coverage across the country regarding offices, the comfortable and friendly working environment, and the variety of work that is available. The wide range of large framework agreements with the water companies makes accessing work relatively easy, and there are many opportunities to work across different groups and disciplines.

At Stantec, we put people first, and for Sean, that means professional development support regardless of what stage you’re at in your career. If you want to start your career at Stantec, visit our Careers page to find out more. 

  • Sean Comber

    As a technical specialist, Sean specialises in the sourcing, fate, regulation, and compliance of chemicals used in the aquatic environment.

    Contact Sean
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