Orange County loses widely respected lab director

Orange County Water District (OCWD) in California announced on 21 March 2011 that Steve Fitzsimmons, director of its Advance Water Quality Assurance Laboratory, who had been a key figure in water quality testing for Water Factory 21 and gaining credibility for the Groundwater Replenishment System, died on 3 March 2011.

The two projects led the world in wastewater reuse using reverse osmosis and microfiltration.

Describing Fitzsimmons as "a leader in the field of water chemistry and water quality", the OCWD said he was instrumental in the design of OCWD's state-of-the-art laboratory that replaced a 35-year-old building and several add-on portable trailers that OCWD had outgrown.

"Steve was an amazing man who was a great boss, peer, friend and co-worker to all of us at OCWD," said Mike Markus, OCWD General Manager. "Steve was an excellent lab director who built a strong team and enhanced the reputation of the laboratory as one of the best labs in California. He will be greatly missed by all. We are deeply saddened for his family's great loss."

Fitzsimmons joined the OCWD in January 1985 as a chemist, and in 1993 was promoted to supervising chemist. In July 2001, he was promoted to lab director. His expertise helped meet the water quality testing needs for OCWD's Water Factory 21 and built the credibility necessary for regulatory approval and public acceptance of its successor in 2008, the 265,000 m³/d Groundwater Replenishment System.

"Steve was widely respected by chemistry professionals around the country. His relationships with regulators and other top laboratories helped to assure that the district was always prepared for new developments in water testing," said Mike Wehner, OCWD assistant general manager and director of water quality and technology. "Steve stood true to his principles and convictions like no other person. I will miss him as a colleague and a friend."

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