Charles (Charlie) O’Melia


Charles (Charlie) O’Melia

Distinguished Pioneer

Professional background

Charles R. O’Melia (1934-2010) was one of the world’s leading authorities on  water treatment science and practice.  Born in New York City, Charlie’s fascination with the city’s bridges and skyscrapers initially led him to study civil engineering at Manhattan College. Later he decided to focus on the emerging field of environmental engineering.

O’Melia earned his master’s degree in environmental engineering in 1956 from the University of Michigan followed by his PhD 1963. Charlie carried out research as a postdoctoral fellow and lecturer at Harvard University, working with Professor Werner Stumm from 1964 to 1966 on the chemistry of coagulation and filtration in water treatment. His seminal work with Stumm at Harvard resulted in transformational and award-winning publications.

After Harvard, Charlie joined the Department of Environmental Science and Engineering at the University of North Carolina (UNC) and was promoted to full professor in 1970. In 1971 Charlie and his first doctoral student at UNC developed the first theoretical microscopic model for particle filtration — pioneering work that has since become standard textbook material and is widely used to predict filter performance. In 1980 Charlie accepted a position at Johns Hopkins University. Under his leadership over 30 years, the department significantly expanded and rose in stature and is now consistently ranked as one of the best in the US.

Major Contributions to IWA

Chalie O’Melia was a key figure in the group of water scientists that made up the Joint IWSA IAWQ (later IWA) Particle Separation Group and was a prominent contributor to a wide range of IWSA, IAWQ and IWA Conferences.  He is  remembered for his pioneering contributions to the theories of coagulation, flocculation and filtration leading to improved water-treatment practices throughout the world.

Authors:  Paul D Reiter

Contributing Source: Menachem Elimelech’s tribute, American Academy of Engineers