Canadian Consulting Engineer

Environmental remediation pioneer Suthan Suthersan is remembered

February 24, 2017

Receiving a Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering from the University of Toronto, Suthersan helped coin the term remediation engineering.

Suthan Suthersan

Arcadis North America chief technical officer and executive vice president Suthan S. Suthersan, PhD, PE, passed away unexpectedly Feb. 20 in Yardley, Pennsylvania., at the age of 60.

A pioneer in the field of environmental remediation, Suthersan was an inspirational leader and trusted friend to many at Arcadis, which he joined more than 26 years ago. He and former Arcadis CEO Steve Blake coined the term remediation engineering, and Suthersan’s 1996 book of the same name broke the mold on conventional approaches to the remediation of soil and groundwater, challenging long-term industry paradigms, influencing regulatory trends and establishing Arcadis as the leading firm in the remediation industry. A second edition of his book, “Remediation Engineering: Design Concepts,” was published in December 2016.

Suthersan was acknowledged as one of the most knowledgeable, energetic and creative people and one of the world’s leading experts in the field of environmental engineering. He was the face of the Arcadis remediation practice, and he initiated the firm’s Technical Knowledge and Innovation platform, creating a unique career path and community for those who aspired to contribute through their technical skill. Suthersan was renowned for his passion for helping the industry continue to advance and for his ability to bring innovative solutions to the most complex environmental restoration challenges while achieving environmental restoration as quickly and cost effectively as possible.

Suthersan’s earliest work was in the area of wastewater treatment, exploring ways to harness the principles in that field to achieve the restoration of contaminated groundwater in situ. From there, he pioneered many techniques for accelerating the natural biological degradation of contaminants in soil and groundwater, becoming one of the most prominent leaders of a technical wave in the restoration industry that is still relevant today. More recently, Suthersan was passionate about proving that large-scale aquifer contamination can often be restored, not merely “contained,” and he promoted the importance of digital innovation and big data for the future of the industry.


His greatest passion, however, was for the people he worked with.

“Suthan’s dedication and commitment not only continue to inspire and guide engineers, scientists, regulators, students and researchers around the world but also advance the industry’s shared mission of improving quality of life – today, tomorrow and long into the future,” said Joachim Ebert, CEO of Arcadis North America. “A giant in his field, Suthan shaped an industry, and he will be dearly missed.”

Suthersan held a B.S. in Civil Engineering from the University of Sri Lanka, an M.S. in Environmental Engineering from the Asian Institute of Technology in Bangkok, and a Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering from the University of Toronto.

During his 35-year groundbreaking career, he participated in hundreds of environmental remediation projects in the U.S., Canada, Europe, Latin America and Asia; taught on the topic of remediation engineering at leading universities, including the University of Pennsylvania; was awarded 20 patents (with more pending) for remediation technology applications; and was the driving force behind major industry conferences. Suthersan also authored “Natural and Enhanced Remediation Systems” and “In Situ Remediation Engineering.” His column, “Advances in Remediation Solutions,” has been regularly featured in the Journal of Ground Water Monitoring and Remediation. His was a virtual lifetime of achievement, some of which was captured in his blog.

He is survived by his wife and two children.


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