Frank’s 43 years have twisted and turned right along with the Cuyahoga’s comeback story

A man who began his clean-water career not long after the 1969 fire has seen the river’s rebirth first-hand

Just a week after high school graduation, Frank signed on with the Regional Sewer District as a summer student. From there to mail clerk, he familiarized himself with its many departments and employees, learning from their experiences and perspectives.

That was in 1976. Today, Frank Schuschu is in his 43rd year of Sewer District service and he’s the elder statesman to a new generation of water-quality advocates.

Growing up with the Cuyahoga River and canal in his backyard, Frank’s curiosity and attention to the environment began at a young age. “During the late ’60s, a sand and gravel operator sold his land,” he said. “The new owner began to fill the wetlands with residential garbage. The ponds died and changed all kinds of colors. The wetlands were destroyed, and I developed a great concern for what we were doing to our planet.”

Now, the pollution problems are not so obvious. “We have to look for things like bacteria, mercury, phosphates, pharmaceuticals, microplastics and something called PFOs,” Frank said. “You can’t see or smell these things.”

PFO is short for Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid, a pollutant resulting from old methods of textile manufacturing.

As a Water Quality & Industrial Surveillance (WQIS) Investigator, Frank’s responsibilities include monitoring industrial discharges, pretreatment and environmental sampling. Frank’s passion for the environment and his work at the Sewer District has driven him to push for environmental awareness that would result in new policies or legislation.

Frank spends his free time working out at the Berea Recreation Center, hiking, and reading. He attributes his love of books to a former co-worker, Keith Linn, who got him into philosophy.

“The vast amount of knowledge and experiences related to me are from the fantastic human beings that I have worked with. WQIS is a very special place because of the very intelligent and open-minded people working there.”

Today, Frank reflects on the environment around him. He sees fish jumping in the river and numerous birds along the waterways. A view that once included sewage and debris now has life, due to the efforts of employees like Frank and his desire for a better future for our environment.

— Communications Specialist Yolanda Kelly