ive years ago, Brandon Stevens was working in home construction and awaiting the
birth of his first child. Then, the recession hit.
He was laid off.
“It was really nerve wracking,” recalled the
28-year-old pipefitter from Spotsylvania,
Virginia. “I had no paycheck, no money.”
During his six months of unemployment,
his first daughter, Dixie Lynn, was born.
That made him all the more desperate. “I
was applying for jobs at grocery stores,
calling friends, doing anything and everything to try to find work,” Stevens said.
Finally, about four years ago, his grandfather heard about a job opening at a
Maryland-based company called American
Contracting and Environmental Services,
Inc. The firm was working on a $63-mil-
lion project to upgrade a sewage treatment
plant in Fairfax County, Virginia.
Stevens applied and was hired. Soon, he
was wearing a hardhat alongside 117 other
workers—from concrete layers to engi-
neers and plumbers—rebuilding and mod-
ernizing the Noman M.
Cole, Jr., Pollution
Control Plant in
Lorton. It is one
of many plants
being renovated across the region to implement the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint.
Each $1 billion invested on water and
wastewater construction results in more
than 20,000 jobs, according to the
Clean Water Council, an association of
“I’m happier than ever, and I’m glad to be
making a difference with the environment,”
Stevens explains that he’s extremely grateful
to have the $20-per-hour job. Some people
claim that environmental regulations are
“job killers.” In fact, however, the opposite
is true. Stevens says the regulations that
drove the sewage plant upgrade were more
life-savers than job killers for him.
“Before I got with this company, I wasn’t
making anywhere near to what I’m making
now,” says Stevens, adding that his employ-
er also paid for him to go back to school.
Because of his solid employment, Stevens
says he felt much more economically secure
when his second daughter, Madeline, was
born 18 months ago.
Jeff Bustamante, Project Superintendent for
another firm working on the Lorton sewage
project, Ulliman Schutte Construction,
LLC, said there are several formerly unemployed construction workers now supporting their families by improving wastewater
plants and saving the Bay.
In that sense, Stevens’ story is a common tale.
“People apply for jobs here every day, and a
lot of them used to be in the housing industry,” Bustamante said. “They are changing
careers because they see the opportunities”
in clean water.
Rebuilding a Life
a Clean Bay
By Tom Pelton
Tom Pelton, an award-winning
environmental journalist, is
Senior Writer and Investigative
Reporter for CBF. Read his blog
Brandon Stevens is working at the Noman Cole Wastewater Treatment Plant in Lorton, Virginia, helping it upgrade.