Uncovering a deep passion

Driven by her passion for Geotechnical engineering, Woo Lai Lynn dug deep to go where not many had gone before, literally.

After graduating with a Bachelor degree in Civil Engineering at NTU, Lai Lynn carried on to complete her Master of Science (Geotechnical Enginering) in 1998.

That same year, Lai Lynn joined the then Ministry of Environment under the sewerage department.

“After completing my Masters, I heard about the Deep Tunnel Sewerage System (DTSS) project and as I had grown to love tunneling works, I wanted to be a part of it,” she said.

lai lynn

PLANNING AHEAD: Not afraid of getting her hands dirty, Lai Lynn is used to spending time at worksites.

She started out as a project officer in one of the six tunnel contracts during Phase 1 of the DTSS project.

In 2001, her department was then transferred to PUB, Singapore’s national water agency, after it was reconstituted to be the single water authority in Singapore.

The overall concept of the DTSS is to use deep tunnels to intercept the used water flows in existing gravity sewers and channel the flows by gravity to centralized water reclamation plants that are strategically located at the coastal areas of Singapore.

Before this, used water in Singapore was conveyed via a series of intermediate pumping stations found across the island.

“Despite the expanding demand, there was not enough land available in Singapore to sustain such a mode of transporting used water. Looking forward, we needed something that would sustain us well into the future, while preserving our water sources,” Lai Lynn said.

DTSS is thus seen as a more cost-effective solution as it frees up land for other developments.

While Phase 1 was completed in 2008, Phase 2 will extend the deep tunnel system to cover the western part of Singapore, which includes downtown developments.

Now, even though she is the Deputy Project Director for DTSS Phase 2 Conveyance, which includes the tunnels and the link sewers for the project, she intends to continue going down to the sites everyday when construction commences.

“It’s only through going to the worksites and talking to people that you’ll learn a lot more than if you were to confine yourself to the office,” she said.

Such is her passion for her work that she even went down into the tunnels while pregnant.

“I didn’t see anything wrong with it, although the Safety Officer kept fussing over me,” Lai Lynn said jokingly.

Having been involved with DTSS projects for more than 15 years, Lai Lynn can also fall back on many memorable experiences.

“I had a particularly challenging project where there were great variations in ground conditions. My happiest moment was when we finished the tunneling works for DTSS Phase 1 in 2005,” Lai Lynn recalled.

Another unforgettable experience involved carrying out inspections while cycling along a 12-km long tunnel.

“As the tunnels were cylindrical and slippery, one really needs some skill riding a bicycle in such an environment. I recalled falling off my bicycle many times,” she laughed.

“Despite that, it was one of my most memorable experience as not many people have been in a sewer tunnel, let alone cycle in one.”

Currently, Lai Lynn is devoting her time to the planning and preliminary design of the DTSS Phase 2 conveyance system. This includes the planning of alignments, securing of land for the tunnels, link sewers and air management structures, and coming up with design concepts to make the system perform in a reliable and resilient manner.

“I am very happy to be involved in something that I have always been passionate about.”
Written by Nazri Eddy Razali © The Nanyang Chronicle
Photo Credit: Gowri Somasundaram
Reproduced with thanks from The Nanyang Chronicle.

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