| AWWA Member Spotlight – Charles Vein, Grand Forks, N.D.
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AWWA Member Spotlight – Charles Vein, Grand Forks, N.D.

Position and company: Newly retired as co-founder (with Steve Buran) of Advanced Engineering and Environmental Services (AE2S)

Charlie Vein with Harley motorcycleEducation: B.S., Civil Engineering, University of North Dakota

AWWA involvement: Former member of AWWA Board of Directors and finance and pension committees; former director, North Dakota Section; recipient of the George Warren Fuller Award; AWWA Life Member since 1985. (Pictured right on his Harley motorcycle)

How did you build your firm? Steve and I both had ties to the Grand Forks water treatment plant and were both heavily involved with and collaborated on the Surface Water Treatment rule. When we started our business from scratch in October 1991, we rented a one-room office in the basement of the old depot in downtown Grand Forks. We had a drafting table, a borrowed computer, a desk and business cards. We specialized in drinking water-related engineering projects to improve the quantity and quality in the Upper Midwest. We weren’t like our competitors because most engineering firms are generalists and do a lot more than water-related work. We are very much a niche firm. We now employ about 300 people in 23 offices serving the Dakotas, Minnesota, Montana, Utah, Colorado, Arizona and Wisconsin. 

How and why did you get involved in the water sector? Prior to starting AE2S, I was employed for about 15 years at KBM engineering firm, then based in Grand Forks. As project manager for the modernization of the City of Grand Forks water treatment plan in 1984, I realized that the water treatment area required your complete attention to stay on top of requirements, regulations, technologies, equipment, etc. I moved into the drinking water engineering side of KBM’s business, which got me into the surface water world. That was what got me to look at starting a company that focused on drinking water.

What other projects are highlights from your work? We helped rebuild the Grand Forks water treatment system as the city recovered from an historic 1997 flood. We also helped find solutions to the problem of insufficient water supplies for an area in western North Dakota that more than doubled between 2010 and 2020 during the oil boom. And, I supported legislation to create the Western Area Water Supply authority in 2011.

Charlie Vein and his wife, LeezaHow have you benefited from being involved with AWWA and the North Dakota and Minnesota sections? I got involved in AWWA early in my career because I clearly saw the benefits of its standards, conferences, literature, networking, exhibits, regulatory engagement, and a whole lot more. I wanted to put time into an organization that truly provided value. I saw that value being many times more than the cost.

Please describe your family and/or hobbies and interests: My wife, Leeza, and I have three daughters and two grandchildren. Their families are located in California; Washington, D.C.; and New Hampshire – which are a long way from North Dakota. Retirement will allow more travel and time with them. I also am looking forward to spending time in a number of Charlie and his twin brother at age 4Christian ministries I am involved with. In addition, I hope to spend more time on my Harley. (Pictured left with Leeza hiking in Zion National Park)

What would people be surprised to know about you? I am a former University of North Dakota track and cross country athlete and am the 880-yard run record holder (retired). Also, I have an identical twin who also is an engineer. (Pictured right with twin at age 4)