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City of Escondido Water Quality Lab Associate Chemist Oyuna Jenkins is the 2019-2020 CWEA Laboratory Person of the Year. Photo: City of Escondido

Escondido Employee Named California Laboratory Person of the Year

City of Escondido Water Quality Lab Associate Chemist Oyuna Jenkins has been named “Laboratory Person of the Year” by the California Water Environment Association for 2019-20.

Supervising Chemist Ralph Ginese nominated Jenkins for the award, calling her “an incredible asset” during her seven years working at the lab. “The lab technically could not function without Oyuna,” wrote Ginese.

“This is really teamwork,” said Oyuna Jenkins of her recognition. “I have to give credit to everyone in the lab. We work really hard. Whoever you call a hero, there are always people behind them.

“It’s all about public health. I feel like it’s making a difference, providing accurate information to the public as possible. It’s all coordination between distribution, collection, public works, and everyone involved.”

Escondido lab helps ensure safe, reliable water supply

Jenkins plays a key role in the lab’s safety processes, which ensures a safe, reliable water supply for City of Escondido customers. She runs metal analyses on drinking water, industrial waste, and every step of the wastewater treatment process. Jenkins also peforms required monthly and quarterly testing and cross-trains colleagues on testing procedures. In addition, she is the laboratory’s liaison to contract labs.

“She’s very analytical,” said Ginese. “She’s someone we can go to, brainstorm, and work together. She is not afraid when people question her data. She is secure in what she does.”

Escondido lab plays leadership role in advanced water quality testing

Oyuna Jenkins (fifth from left) and the 14 person Escondido Water Quality Lab team, one of only two certified labs in California under new water quality standards. Photo: City of Escondido California Laboratory Person

Oyuna Jenkins (fifth from left) and the 14 person Escondido Water Quality Lab team, one of only two certified labs in California under new water quality standards. Photo: City of Escondido

From Mongolia to Escondido

A native of Mongolia, Oyuna Jenkins earned her bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the Mongolian University of Science and Technology, which is among the top 15% of all programs worldwide. She immigrated to the United States in 1998. Jenkins continues to pursue advanced training. She first obtained CWEA certification in 2012 and completed the Water and Wastewater Certification program at Palomar College in 2016.

“Oyuna has worked tremendously hard to be where she is at today,” wrote Ginese in his award nomination. “She is grateful for the opportunity this country gives her and she shares that gratitude with those around her … She is what every supervisor/manager is looking for in a Laboratory Person of the Year Award.”

Escondido Water Quality Lab leads the way

Jenkins helped develop strategies to implement new techniques and processes supporting the implementation of strict new accreditation standards for California’s 600 certified water quality testing labs.

As reported earlier this year on Water News Network, the City of Escondido Water Quality Lab successfully adopted the anticipated regulations in advance of their formal implementation. Jenkins reviewed and wrote many of the lab’s new Standard Operating Procedures now being used. She also assisted in developing the facility’s annual goals, along with its new mission and value statements.

The ambitious approach to Environmental Lab Accreditation Program compliance under the more stringent quality control processes places Escondido in a leadership role as one of only two California labs already compliant with the new regulations.

Clean Water Act Covers Groundwater Discharges, Supreme Court Rules

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Farmers Face New Challenges in Their Ongoing Quest for Water

Not a drop of rain fell in February in Sacramento until the end of the month, making it the driest February on record for much of Northern California. For many farmers it was a painful harkening back to the drought that reached its peak and 2015, and marked the driest period in recorded California history.

In First Month of COVID-19 Guidance, the California Regional Water Quality Control Boards Have Issued Hundreds of Approvals for Compliance Extensions Submitted by Regulated Entities

On March 20, the California Water Boards issued guidance about complying with regulatory requirements during the COVID-19 shelter-in-place orders. We summarized that guidance here.

San Diego County Farmers See Big Drop in Flower Sales

San Diego County farmers who grow cut flowers and ornamental plants have seen their sales decline, while other farmers who sell produce are taking less of a hit.

California Ranks Small Water Agencies in the County, State for Drought Vulnerability

Roy Vincent has no problem ticking off the problems he says face the little community water district that serves him in Jones Valley near Redding. The system leaks, the filtration system is old and prone to breaking down, many individual meters are antiquated and the water pumps have inadequate wiring, he said.

San Diego County Water Authority Board of Directors Chair Jim Madaffer-primary-View from the Chair

Jim Madaffer: Strategic Steps to Address Emerging Fiscal Realities

Across the country, public agencies are scrambling to fill holes created by the pandemic – financial holes and, worse yet, holes in the workforce. It is safe to assume, until a vaccine is developed or an antibody treatment is found, we are living the new normal.

As we hope and pray that the worst days of the coronavirus are behind us, I am so thankful that the Water Authority took aggressive early action to protect employees and that we have had no COVID-related illnesses. I’m also grateful to report that our region’s water treatment and delivery systems are in good shape, and that they continue to provide clean, safe drinking water 24/7 due to the efforts of a few thousand employees of the Water Authority and its 24 member agencies. These dedicated public servants are doing their jobs day and night, despite numerous personal and logistical challenges.

That said, our region’s water agencies are collectively facing serious declines in revenues; businesses are not using water as expected, which means water sales have plummeted. Unlike some other industries, most of our costs are fixed. In fact, the Water Authority’s operating departments only account for about 6 percent of the budget.

This means that even when water sales drop, we still must pay the “mortgage” on the system – from pumps to pipes to filtration and whatever other costs we cannot control, such as increases from our water suppliers or higher costs for energy and treatment chemicals. For instance, we expect the Los Angeles-based Metropolitan Water District of Southern California to raise rates in San Diego County by more than 7 percent in 2021 despite our pleas for relief on your behalf.

Details about the financial impact of coronavirus will take weeks or months to emerge, but the Water Authority is already taking proactive steps to address anticipated challenges, from instituting a hiring freeze to assessing which non-essential projects and expenses can be deferred. I assure you that we are working every day to sustain our core mission to maintain the many values that we provide our region and make smart choices to ensure our long-term viability.

It is not an easy task, but we have 75 years of history that say we can do this together – and I know we will.

On a hopeful note, the region’s water agencies have joined forces to raise thousands of dollars for the Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank through voluntary donations by board members and employees. We’re always looking for opportunities to raise more money given the ongoing significance of the need. Click here to donate – and do not forget to share the link with family, friends and others who may want to participate. Every dollar helps feed those in need.

View From The Chair represents the viewpoints of Jim Madaffer, Chair of the San Diego County Water Authority Board of Directors.