Academy of Distinguished Alumni
Henry J. Ongerth B.S., N.A.E.
Inducted to the Academy of Distinguished Alumni on
Henry Ongerth received his B.S. degree (1935) in Civil Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley. He also received his Master of Public Health (MPH) degree (1950) from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Mr. Ongerth had a distinguished career in public service, spending nearly all of it at the California State Health Department (CSHD) where he rose to the position of Chief of the Bureau of Sanitary Engineering. He retired from CSHD in 1979, after 40 years of service. He passed away in August 2011 at the age of 98.
Mr. Ongerth’s professional focus encompassed public water supply, drinking water quality, wastewater treatment, water recycling, and public health. He had an unrelenting commitment to providing public health protection for drinking water and reclaimed water, even in the face of political opposition. Internationally recognized for his water quality expertise, Mr. Ongerth was appointed to the U.S. Public Health Services Committee tasked with improving U.S. national drinking water standards; these standards were promulgated by the U.S. government in 1962. He served as Chairperson of the Conference of State Sanitary Engineers (CSSE). Individually, and through his leadership of CSSE, he is widely recognized as a driving force in the 1974 passage of the U.S. Safe Drinking Water Act. He later served as a member of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (USEPA’s) National Drinking Water Advisory Committee He also served as a senior advisor to USEPA’s Region 9 water supply program.
Among Mr. Ongerth’s honors, he was elected to the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) in 1976. A member of the American Water Works Association (AWWA) since 1939, he was awarded the George Warren Fuller Award in 1968, Honorary membership in 1972, and the Outstanding Service to AWWA Award in 1974. Active at the regional and national levels of AWWA, he chaired the California Section in 1962 and the AWWA Water Quality Division in 1967. Mr. Ongerth was a respected technical author, with landmark papers presented in the Journal AWWA, Water Research Foundation (formerly the AWWA Research Foundation), and other publications.
Mr. Ongerth was extremely loyal to Berkeley CEE, teaching sanitary engineering extension courses throughout his career and contributing his time and talents to many sanitary and environmental engineering group activities.