Dr. David Jenkins

Distinguished Member and Wastewater Professor Dr. David Jenkins Has Passed Away

By CWEA Staff, Announcements, Members in the News

Quick links: About Dr. Jenkins   |   Remembrances

It is with a heavy heart we report Dr. David Jenkins passed away this weekend. He was 85 years old.

Dr. Jenkins was a Professor Emeritus of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) at UC Berkeley from 1966 to 1999, a member of their Academy of Distinguished Alumni, a sought after wastewater treatment expert and a long-standing member and volunteer for CWEA and the Water Environment Federation (WEF).

Looking back in CWEA’s archives, we found Dr. Jenkins’ first article published in our journal in 1961, according to Dr. Nick Pinhey, CWEA’s History Work Group leader. Dr. Jenkins was a member in CWEA for 60 years and possibly longer. When he joined, the association was known as the California Water Pollution Control Association (CWPCA).

Dr. Jenkins spoke frequently at CWEA and WEF conferences and was willing to lend a helping hand to a student, a fellow CWEA member or assist an agency with their treatment plant challenges. Dr. Jenkins always answered the call for help from wastewater operators and we are forever grateful for his kind and generous contributions to our profession.

He is affectionately known as the “FlocDoc” because of his expertise in researching and analyzing the activated sludge process, the most common and efficient method for wastewater treatment used around the world. It was a nickname Dr. Jenkins embraced, using the email handle “flocdoc” when he set-up his consulting practice. Floc is short for flocculation. Dr. Jenkins research included looking at the mass of microorganisms in wastewater treatment, and the absorbed organic and inorganic materials that clump together during the activated sludge process.

He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering; Fellow of the Chartered Institution of Water Environment and Management (UK) and was conferred Honorary Life Memberships by CWEA, WEF and the International Water Association.

One way to celebrate Dr. Jenkins life is to contribute to the Kirt Brooks Scholarship Fund. Please be sure to select Dr. Jenkins name from the drop down list to let us know you are contributing in his memory. Donate here >

If you would like to publicly share a remembrance or story about Dr. Jenkins, CWEA is happy to collect them, edit for space and place them on this page.

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About Dr. Jenkins

According to UC Berkeley, Professor Jenkins researched and published a wide variety of environmental engineering research papers.  His major areas of research are biological treatment processes for wastewater and sludge, and water and wastewater chemistry and microbiology. In these areas, he has focused on the causes and controls of activated sludge solids separation problems and the chemical and biological methods of nutrient removal.

Dr. Jenkins is the author of more than 250 publications and reports and has also co-authored four textbooks.

He has received the following awards and honors over the years:

  • WEF Harrison Prescott Eddy Medal for Research – three time winner
  • WEF Camp Applied Research Award
  • WEF Fair Distinguished Engineering Educator Medal
  • WEF Gascoigne Wastewater Treatment Plant Operational Improvement Medal
  • IWA Sam Jenkins Medal
  • IWA Global Water Award
  • Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors (AEESP) Pohland Medal for work that bridges theory and practice

Dr. Jenkins holds a B.Sc. in Applied Biochemistry from Birmingham University and a Ph.D. in Public Health Engineering from the University of Durham, King’s College.

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Remembrances of Dr. Jenkins

Email us your stories, memories and/or thoughts of Dr. Jenkins. We’ll publish them here.

It was an honor to have known David Jenkins for the past 45 years. He will be greatly missed. Thoughts and prayers for Joan and the family. – Chuck Weir, Past President, CWEA

Dr. Jenkins was beyond legendary, and I’ll never forget his dry humor and mannerisms. He would always travel with his special chair, and he always made time to talk to those who had questions. He always had this twinkle in his eye when he greeted me, and I will cherish those memories forever. The world lost another water industry giant. Rest in peace, Dr. Jenkins. – Megan Yoo Schneider, CWEA Vice President, MWDOC Board Member, Seven Management and Consulting

“This is truly a great loss for me personally and for many other water professionals as well.  He is a true legend in our industry.  RIP FlocDoc.” –  Ms. Bhavani Yerrapotu, P.E.,  Deputy Operating Officer, Valley Water

Although he is no longer with us, Prof. Jenkins’ impact on our industry will always remain. He was a savior for many (foaming, bulking, effluent quality) and an inspiration to the larger wastewater community, but he was a mentor and advisor to a small few. I consider it an honor and a great privilege to have been one of Prof. Jenkins PhD students. He left us too soon for his work was not done, but I know that the understanding he has left behind gives us the foundation to build a better world. Love to Joan and his family. Sincerely, Shane Trussell

I so enjoyed working with Dr. Jenkins on his engaging workshops that he held at past CWEA annual conferences.  He was so passionate about his work and always had a twinkle in his eye.  He will be missed. – Monica Myhill, Director of Education, CWEA

“David Jenkins was first my teacher, then advisor, colleague, and most of all, my friend. A prolific academic and researcher par excellence, he tackled the most vexing and practical problems in wastewater treatment such as biological and chemical phosphorus removal, foaming, and settleability to create practical solutions used worldwide. But his biggest impact on me and my family, will be the personal interest he showed in us, the open heart and open house where we shared meals and dreams with so many others. Thank you, flocdoc, for teaching us skills for work while equipping us for life. – JB Neethling, Director, Wastewater Treatment and Effluent Management, HDR

Dr. David Jenkins was a friend, a mentor and a teacher above everything else. We first met him as PhD students of Dr. Clifford Randall at a WEFTEC, and had the chance to get to know him as a family after moving to California. Numerous times at the CWEA annual conferences Dr.Jenkins watched our young son as both my Ufuk and I were busy at sessions presenting. Every time we would come back to see our son had learned something new, at times fun mischief to keep his parents on their toes. He will be greatly missed but the mark he has left through personal connections he built, his sharp mind and service to our profession, he will never be forgotten. – Zeynep K. Erdal, Integrated Solutions Leader, Water Business, Black & Veatch

When I heard the sad news, the name David Jenkins is right in front of me, on the cover of Water Chemistry book. I just finished my online lecture for the day. Water Chemistry by Jenkins and Snoeyink is the textbook I chose for my class. What Dr. Jenkins really meant to me as a wastewater professional is his remarkable knowledge and wisdom in the field, from science to practice. I feel lucky that I got to work with him personally during my career as an engineering consultant. I vividly remember the time we sat next to each other in a project meeting, when I told him that his former student was my professor at graduate school, he pulled a big kiss on my forehead and yelled to the room “this is my grandchild”. Dr. Jenkins, you are truly missed. – June Leng, Senior Professional Associate, HDR

I came to California in 1968 to work for LACSD. I worked there 7 years. LACSD would have alumni events at CWEA conferences. We would invite Dr. Jenkins, although he was not an Alumni because we all knew him.

There was and probably still is a huge alumni group from LACSD because it was such a good place to work and the Alums moved on to have important positions in the wastewater systems, CWEA, all the local sections all around the state. – Bob Ooten, CWEA Past President

David Jenkins was my PhD advisor. We studied nutrient removal.

David was warm and gracious. His interests? Varied. Musical tastes?
Eclectic. David was demanding but he was also encouraging.

One day, I had some exciting new data. I thought I had discovered something. I went to David’s house. We took a walk around his cul-de-sac. He told me that I needed to lose weight. He was right. He told me to use the mass balance approach. Are you minding what you eat? Our conversation turned to boxing. Jack Dempsey. Sonny Liston.
Then to swimming and the properties of water. Then back to my fat stomach. We didn’t talk about my data. He was more interested in me.

David provided an excellent example for me. People first. –Willie Harper – CAL BERKELEY c/o 2002

In addition to the many standing room only technical sessions that Dr. Jenkins presented he also was invited to be the MC at one of our Tri Counties Section Turkey of the Year banquets at the request of the reigning Turkey #22 Jim Buell back in 1999. We prepared a script for him to read and while the shenanigans were happening in the background he kept muttering that this was the most preposterous event he had ever seen. We paid for his train ticket down from Berkeley and yes he had his special chair as well as being accompanied by his lovely wife. A good time was had by all and we really appreciated his involvement.

Brett Offerman, CWEA Tri Counties Section Past President and Turkey #20.

My first memory of Dr. Jenkins was teaching us water chemistry in the 90s while reclining in the front of the class. He was not going to let his back get in the way of teaching. He is the reason I am in this industry, which I know is true for many of us. This is a huge loss to the Cal community and the wastewater world. He will forever be FlocDoc.

Sincerely, Pavitra Prabhakar, SFPUC

My deepest condolences to David’s wife and family. I always remember David’s English sense of humor, which I enjoyed! He was certainly ready for a smile or a good joke. I was a student under Prof At Pretorius, who had spent time at Berkeley with David and then returned to South Africa to teach a wastewater class. As students we became intimately familiar with the “flocdoc’s” activated sludge bulking manual, that I’m sure has spread to all corners of the world. When I finally had the good fortune to meet David it struck me how down to earth and friendly he was, as he explained the workings of his ergonomic chair. Clearly, he will be remembered as one of the titans of the wastewater industry. David, may your soul rest in peace. – Graham Juby

David loved to kid.  Even better, he loved attempts at us trying to kid him.  My favorite was to ask him how much MLSS he needed for filamentous identification and follow with the offer to send a gallon if that would help.  He would put up with my colloquialisms and the jokes I would email only chastising me once for going over the top.  There were the all-day excursions at Point Reyes followed by oyster shooters where the out of shape student paid dearly.  The spaghetti feeds overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge.  Skipping rocks on Fallen Leaf Lake or better yet slinging them like David and Goliath.  And finally, chocolate covered strawberries and champagne upon graduation.  He encouraged all of us to excel.  It is what he taught me to teach others.  So, as I air dry another slide and hope to distinguish between a Gram (-) and Neisser (+) filament, I think of David and his efforts at making us all “do good” in the profession.  Thank you, Joan, Sarah and Daniel, for sharing him with us.

Tom Warnock, Class of 1986

I am grateful to have been able to work with Dr. Jenkins on his last writing project. We were able to complete biographies for several of the great heroes of the wastewater field. Dr. Jenkins’ energy, enthusiasm, and wonderful writing style were delightful and made the project highly enjoyable. Thank you David for inviting me to work with you. I truly miss you and working with you.

Thank you for all your contributions to our field.

Rest in Peace.

Nick Pinhey