Water Utility Hero of the Week: Carrie Selby, City of Escondido

This feature highlights water utility employees in the San Diego region working during the coronavirus pandemic to ensure a safe, reliable and plentiful water supply. The water industry is among the sectors that are classified as essential. Carrie Selby, City of Escondido Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator, is the Water Utility Hero of the Week.

Coronavirus: Testing Sewage an ‘Easy Win’

A sewage-based coronavirus test could be an “easy win” that would pick up infection spikes up to 10 days earlier than with existing medical-based tests.

Scientists led by UK’s Centre for Ecology and Hydrology are working on a standardised test to “count” the amount of coronavirus in a wastewater sample.

“The earlier you find [a signal], the earlier an intervention can happen,” says lead researcher Dr Andrew Singer.

“That means lives will be made much more liveable in the current crisis.”

Calif. Farm Bureau President Says Farmworker Safety is Priority

As California’s agricultural industry faces an estimated $6-8 billion loss this year due to the pandemic, farmers and ranchers say they’re working hard to keep the food supply steady and safe.

EPA to End Policy Suspending Pollution Monitoring by End of Summer

The Environmental Protection Agency will rescind its controversial policy allowing companies to skip monitoring their pollution by the end of the summer, the agency wrote in a letter to lawmakers.

The policy, unveiled in a March 26 memo in an effort to help companies reduce regulatory burdens during the coronavirus, alerted companies they would not face penalties for failing to monitor their pollution emissions as required under a host of environmental laws.

Pandemic, Water Costs, Consumer Behavior Lead to $2 Billion in Ag Losses Thus Far

The pandemic’s direct negative economic impact on California ag is predicted to be between $5.9 and $8.6 billion in 2020. The estimated year-to-date losses are more than $2 billion.

Risk of Covid-19 in Recreational Water is Low

The risk of contracting Covid-19 from both wastewater and recreational water is low, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Studies conducted in multiple countries in recent months have detected the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, in treated and untreated wastewater, but to this date there has been no evidence of a person contracting the virus through wastewater or swimming areas.

Senate Democrats Ask Whether PFAS Worsens Coronavirus Cases

Senate Democrats want to know whether being exposed to PFAS chemicals, which have become ubiquitous in the environment, worsens the effect of the coronavirus on the human body.

U.S. Rural Water Utilities Ask Congress for Financial Help

The National Rural Water Association, which represents water systems that serve fewer than 10,000 customers, is calling on Congress to extend financial aid to small utilities that are being affected by revenue losses due to the pandemic.

City of Oceanside-Ron Lutge-Water Utility Hero of the Week-Essential Workers

Water Utility Hero of the Week: Ron Lutge, City of Oceanside

Editor’s Note: This feature highlights water utility employees in the San Diego region working during the coronavirus pandemic to ensure a safe, reliable and plentiful water supply. The water industry is among the sectors that are classified as essential. Ron Lutge, City of Oceanside Chief Plant Operator, is the Water Utility Hero of the Week.

Water Utility Hero of the Week: Ron Lutge

Job/Agency: City of Oceanside Chief Plant Operator

How did you become interested in working in the water industry?

I became interested in the water industry in a round-about way. After leaving the military, I found it difficult to find work that was both mentally stimulating and challenging. I was looking for something that would allow me to work at an operational tempo I was used to. I definitely wasn’t looking for anything easy or slowed paced. At the time I was working at the General Electric aircraft engine overhaul facility in Ontario. Unfortunately, that industry proved to be unstable and did not offer a promising career. While searching for something new, I found Oceanside had a couple of openings for office workers. Since I had some experience working with spreadsheets and databases, I was offered a position in the water department. I figured this would keep me employed while I looked for something different. I soon discovered there were many disciplines within the water industry. I soon began researching career options in the water industry. Inspiration came from the supervisor I was working for at the time. I sat down with him and asked what were the requirements necessary to become an operator. I also received encouragement from the operators I came in contact with on a daily basis. That’s all it took. After that, I hit the ground running and have never looked back. The water profession is honorable, rewarding, and has offered me everything I have been looking for in a career – just like the military – another opportunity to continue being of service to others. And isn’t that what we as water professionals are here for – to be of service?

How has your job changed during the pandemic?

My personal day-to-day routine hasn’t really changed; I’m always busy. However, given the current health crisis we are all in, it has made me keenly aware of just how important it is to ensure our team is being taken care of, staying safe and healthy, and doing everything we can to ensure our facility stays operational to provide water to the residents of Oceanside without interruption. Because we operate our facility 24 hours a day, coupled with having a very small staff, we cannot work from home or implement rotating or staggered shifts. Everyone has to be ready, prepared, and available to work.

How are you keeping safe?

By following the guidance recommended by health officials to limit exposure in public, at work and home: social distancing, face coverings, sanitizing, washing hands, etc. By practicing these simple protocols we keep each other safe and minimize ourselves or others getting sick.

What are you most looking forward to after the crisis ends?

A return to some semblance of normalcy – whatever that may be.

The Water Utility Hero of the Week highlights essential work performed during the COVID-19 pandemic by employees of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies.

San Diego County Water Authority Member Agency Map

In Letter To Congress, Water Agencies Call For Drinking Water Relief Funding

In March, the COVID-19 relief bill known as the CARES Act set aside $900 million to help Americans pay their utility bills. Earlier this week, a broad coalition of water agencies delivered a letter to Congress advocating for more funding. The letter, submitted Monday to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and other California Congressional delegates, argues that billions of federal dollars are still needed for water infrastructure maintenance and assistance with water bills.