Academy of Distinguished Alumni

Dr. Elizabeth Southerland,

1974 M.S. Environmental Sciences and Engineering; 2008 Ph.D. Environmental Sciences and Engineering
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
Dr. Elizabeth Southerland graduated twice from the Via Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. She is currently the Director of the Office of Science and Technology in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Office of Water. She is one of the highest-ranking Environmental Engineer/Scientists in the USEPA Headquarters Office where she has made major contributions to numerous water and sediment regulatory programs over the past 30 years. She has led major initiatives for water quality protection and hazardous waste site cleanup standards, which involved the development of national guidance manuals, coordinating and negotiating with state environmental agencies, outreach to industry stakeholders, and testimony before Congressional committees.

Prior to joining USEPA, she managed the development of the first water quality model of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed (64,000 sq mi) under an EPA grant while working on a doctoral student assignment at the Northern Virginia Planning District Commission. This bay watershed model was used to set nutrient loading targets for the Chesapeake Bay river basins and states through the early 1990s.

Her background also includes four years of experience with the Virginia State Water Control Board where she oversaw the Statewide 208 Water Quality Planning Program and the development of Virginia’s first Best Management Practice (BMP) Handbooks for stormwater pollution control.

Dr. Southerland’s career at USEPA includes 22 years in the Office of Water where she oversaw several major initiatives and regulatory programs for water quality protection. She provided technical support to Congressional committees, which in turn led to the BEACH Act of 2000, a major amendment to the Clean Water Act that led to the development of the 2012 national water quality criteria to protect swimmers from disease causing microorganisms. She also led the first federal promulgation of nutrient water quality standards for a state. She helped to promote the national fish consumption advisory in which to warn women and children to limit consumption of certain fish species because of mercury contamination.

During her eight years as the Deputy Director and Assessment and Remediation Division Director of the Superfund Office which oversees cleanup at more than 1,600 sites, she led several major science initiatives for hazardous waste remediation, including developing a three-tiered risk assessment approach to setting toxicity limits. It proved to be so effective that the Environmental Council of States and the Department of Defense endorsed its use for their respective cleanup initiatives.

Dr. Southerland has also been an active mother to her two sons by participating in several groups associated with sports programs such as the Booster Club. She is a generous supporter of the Leukemia Foundation in which she has served as a fund-raiser on occasion.
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