HEC joins ATC Williams

Merger results in expansion of water management capabilities

We welcome Tony Marszalek, Director and Dayjil Buhle, Associate Engineer from Hydro Engineering & Consulting (HEC), about their careers and the recent news of HEC’s merger with ATC Williams


Tony Marszalek – Senior Principal Water Engineer (formerly Director at Hydro Engineering and Consulting – HEC)

Hi Tony, tell us about the HEC merger with ATC Williams

I first met Allan Watson in the 1980s at AGC Woodward Clyde. Allan left to start Allan Watson and Associates, and I joined Gilbert and Associates, but we’ve worked together as colleagues on various water management projects ever since. Of course, Allan is now CEO of ATC Williams. We happened to be together as expert witnesses on a matter earlier in the year, and we started a conversation about combining forces.

What are the advantages of the merger?

There is an obvious advantage of bringing HEC’s expertise in water resources into ATC Williams. We specialise in approvals for resources projects and water balance modelling for mining operations. ATC Williams has technical skills that are complementary to our existing scopes of work. They also have the capacity advantages of being a larger organisation and are growing offices across Australia.

I’ve been at the helm of HEC for six years since I took it over from Lindsay Gilbert. Including the time when we were Gilbert and Associates, I’ve been with the same business for 22 years. I’ve been leading a highly competent team at HEC who are ready for career growth, so the timing makes sense for us right now.

How did you develop a career in water management?

I studied civil engineering at The University of Queensland and focused my study on surface water. From there, I did a post-grad in groundwater discharge which was scholarship funded. After presenting the research paper, I was head-hunted by AGC Woodward-Clyde. My work since has focused on minimising the surface water impact of resourcing projects.

What was it like in the early years of your career?

One of my first jobs was supervising a drilling rig in central Queensland. I was very green and working with seasoned drillers, so that was an eye-opener! Another memorable project was supervising a tailings dam construction for a remote Queensland gold mine for four weeks. I met Ralph Holding (now ATC Williams Operations Manager, Queensland) at that time, and we can tell you a few lively stories from those days. I’ve been fortunate to see much of Australia and many places overseas with my work. The 1990s were a great time for making contacts and collaborating with colleagues worldwide for mutual learning. Early in my career, I did Australian aid work in China and Indonesia too.

If you could change anything about your work, what would it be?

I would like to see Queensland catch up to New South Wales in sustainable water management practices and protecting the environment. Generally, attitudes are changing, but there is still a legacy of ‘that’s the way we do it here’ thinking here. However, NSW regulations can be too bureaucratic at times, so there needs to be a happy medium between practicality and sound environmental practices.

Dayjil Buhle – Associate Water Engineer (formerly Senior Water Resources Engineer at Hydro Engineering and Consulting – HEC)

Hi Dayjil, what can you tell us about your background?

I was studying Chemical Engineering at University when I started working at Gilbert and Associates in 2006. That influenced a switch to Environmental Engineering to foster my newfound interest in water resources, which I completed in 2009. In 2014, I returned to study and completed a Masters of Integrated Water Management at The University of Queensland. I stayed working with Gilbert and Associates after I graduated and through the change to HEC when Tony took over the business.

Growing up in Queensland, I’ve always loved the water, and it’s an exciting space overall. As a Senior Engineer at HEC, I’m involved with the Mineral’s Council of Australia’s Water Accounting Framework and its implementation to mine sites across New South Wales and Queensland. I’m also experienced with the Climate Futures tool produced by CSIRO to assess the effects of climate change on projects for development approval.

We’ve heard you have an interest in closure and rehabilitation?

Yes, my thesis investigated how Germany handles the management of closed coal mines and converts them into beneficial uses for the community, such as recreational lakes. I investigated if this approach can be applied to post-mining land in the Hunter Valley region of Australia. Australia is a young mining country compared to most of the world, and there are several sites in New South Wales and Queensland that are viable for conversion rather than left abandoned. The Hunter Valley is a small area with aging coal mines mingled with viticulture (among other agriculture), so there is an opportunity for community and tourism benefits.

Do you think a community approach to land rehabilitation will gain traction in Australia?

There need to be legislative changes, of course, but also a shift in attitude that it’s about sustainable benefit for all, not just a mine company problem. There is a gold mine site conversion in Far North Queensland already that is setting a precedent. Legislative changes take time, and the conversion process can seem very slow when you are in the middle of change. I believe the state is going in the right direction, though.

What will you be working on at ATC Williams?

I’m excited about the opportunity to increase my knowledge of tailings and waste management as a complement to my existing knowledge of water management. To have access to technical leadership across multiple disciplines under the same roof is advantageous for the mining-based projects I’m working on currently. ATC William’s work in mining rehabilitation and the integrations between waste and Geotech are well known and complement the research I’ve done in integrated water management and mine closure planning. I’m looking forward to taking on more projects in these areas.

The A Team Water