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Helathy planet, healthy people

by Kathryn Kinahan, BA’86, MLIS’93 | June 26, 2018

Western Engineering will continue to lead the charge in mitigating the effects of pollution on the environment and public health thanks to a $1-million donation from The Salamander Foundation.

While Canada has one of the largest renewable supplies of freshwater in the world, it is heavily used and overly stressed, putting the ecosystem out of balance. On top of that, municipal, agricultural and industrial waste continues to pollute waterways, causing serious harm to the environment and threatening human health.

Western Engineering is leading the charge to mitigate the effects of pollution on the environment, especially in our water supplies, and the Toronto-based Salamander Foundation has been an ardent supporter of these efforts.

Recently, the organization donated $1 million to help continue the important task of protecting and preserving our precious natural resources and safeguarding public health.

Founded in 1997 by Nan Shuttleworth, BA’65, the Foundation made its first gift to Western in 1999, donating $750,000 to establish the Salamander Chair in Environmental Engineering. The Chair oversees research activities in environmental engineering with a focus on water quality and processing, including wastewater, drinking water and source water contamination.

Since that time, it has continued supporting the Chair with additional gifts.

The Foundation’s latest gift was matched dollar-for-dollar by Western. Directed to the Salamander Chair, it boosts the existing Chair fund and creates an endowment of approximately $3.4 million. Each year, the endowment generates income to support research and activities of the Chair.

“At the time of our original donation, the Chair in Environmental Engineering could be established for $1 million, but over the past several years it has become standard practice for most universities across Canada to commit $3 million to establish any Chair,” said Shuttleworth, who also serves as Foundation President. “The Salamander Board made the decision to augment the original endowment with an additional $1 million to ensure Western continues to provide national leadership in this area.”

George Nakhla
Salamander Chair, Dr. George Nakhla, a professor in the departments of Civil and Environmental and Chemical and Biochemical Engineering, has worked for many years on the biological treatment of toxic organics.

The current holder of the Salamander Chair, George Nakhla, a professor in the departments of Civil and Environmental and Chemical and Biochemical Engineering, has worked for years on the biological treatment of toxic organics.

Municipal and industrial wastewater can cause untold damage to the environment. Disease-causing pathogens, such as bacteria and viruses, can make water unfit for human use. Excess nutrients can overstimulate the growth of aquatic plants. Decaying organic waste can threaten aquatic life. Toxic chemicals can harm aquatic organisms, not to mention the aesthetic concerns of odours and discolouration.

Nakhla’s research interests lie in the general area of environmental engineering and water and soil pollution control with expertise in municipal and industrial wastewater treatment, biological nutrient removal processes, soil and ground water bioremediation and detoxification of hazardous contaminants.

The Salamander Foundation has made a significant impact on his work. With the Foundation’s long-standing support, Nakhla has been able to expand the scope of the Chair’s activities while advancing his research.

He has set up collaborations with both established and new researchers; led the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) CREATE initiative, in conjunction with Trojan Technologies, that addresses the shortage of wastewater process engineers; supervised graduate students; published in scientific journals; and shared research results through public and conference presentations.

“This latest gift will keep the Chair current with university practices and provide Professor Nakhla with the flexibility required to continue this important work and achieve the goals of the Chair,” said Shuttleworth.

Shuttleworth saw the matching fund opportunity as a definite bonus.

“It’s particularly satisfying to know Western is matching the Foundation’s additional $1-million donation. The resulting endowment will really give the Chair the strength it needs and support the extraordinary work being accomplished by Dr. Nakhla and his team in environmental engineering.”

George Nakhla and students
George Nakhla works along side graduate students in his lab to help study wastewater not as a waste, but as a resource.

Nakhla is pleased with the Western partnership and thrilled to see the Foundation make the decision to continue its support.

“I am grateful to the Salamander Foundation for its commitment to preventing or remediating environmental damage, and its steadfast support of the environmental research done at the Faculty of Engineering,” said Nakhla.

Shuttleworth is the daughter of the late Lorraine Shuttleworth, and granddaughter of Richard and Jean Ivey. The Salamander Foundation, one of the successor foundations to the former Richard & Jean Ivey Fund, has continued the family’s longstanding history of philanthropy, and currently has two areas of interest: arts and culture, and the environment.

For more information, or to support the Faculty of Engineering, please contact Terra Ahrens, Director of Development, Faculty of Engineering, at 519.661.2111 x83743 or

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