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Water Utility Hero of the Week-Michelle McMahon-Olivenhain MWD

Water Utility Hero of the Week: Michelle McMahon, Olivenhain MWD

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. Michelle McMahon, Olivenhain Municipal Water District IT Coordinator, is the Water Utility Hero of the Week.

Water Utility Hero of the Week: Michelle McMahon

Job/Agency: Olivenhain Municipal Water District IT Coordinator

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

I worked long hours in a previous career, feeling unappreciated, and heard that OMWD was a great place to work. Best professional change I ever made! I feel that my work has a positive impact within OMWD. What I do matters to the people I support and the ratepayers we serve. It has been good for my work/life balance.

How has your job changed during the pandemic?

Things got crazier. Then it calmed down as it settled into the new normal. Equipment became difficult to purchase. Deliveries, especially those coming from China (computers and their components), took what felt like a lifetime. Purchasing, programming, deploying equipment, and training end-users were a priority. Everything was (and still is) sanitized repeatedly. Remote support has become prominent, even for users located on-site. End users are more understanding of what it takes to make their computers, cell phones, tablets, and desk phones working properly.

How are you keeping safe?

I have acquired a collection of nearly 100 personal masks and a dozen OMWD masks! I have hand sanitizer and alcohol wipes easily accessible. OMWD has placed these items throughout for everyone’s use. I try to help people remotely from my computer whenever possible. I disinfect my workspace each day and other workstations with every support call.

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

I look forward to the new normal. I am curious what the “new normal” will be. This really is an unprecedented time. I think it will be a hybrid of “before the pandemic” and “during the pandemic” for some time, perhaps years. I look forward to spending time with friends, sharing their joy of finally returning to work, and being free to get my hair or nails done whenever I would like!

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

Hauck Mesa Storage Reservoir to Improve Water Reliability

The San Diego County Water Authority is gearing up to construct a 2.1 million-gallon drinking water reservoir on the Valley Center Pipeline to enhance service reliability throughout the region. The Hauck Mesa Storage Reservoir project in northern San Diego County is part of the Water Authority’s Capital Improvement Program. Construction work is scheduled to begin in early 2021 and is estimated to be completed in the winter of 2022.

AECOM Given CWA Design Contract for San Luis Rey Habitat Restoration, Dulin Hill Erosion Control

AECOM Technical Services Inc. was given the San Diego County Water Authority design and engineering support contract for the San Luis Rey Habitat Management Area Restoration and the Dulin Hill Erosion Repair projects.

A July 23 SDCWA board vote approved a professional services contract with AECOM for $465,069. The CWA issued a request for proposals for a single contract for the two adjacent sites; the Dulin Hill Erosion Repair consultant work will be for technical support while the San Luis Rey Habitat Management Area Restoration activities will include design, bidding and construction support services.

Water Utility Hero of the Week, Sandra Louis, San Diego County Water Authority

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. Sandra Louis, San Diego County Water Authority Receptionist, is the Water Utility Hero of the Week.

New Seawater Intake Pumps-Carlsbad Desalination Plant-fish-friendly

New Fish-Friendly Seawater Intake Pumps at Carlsbad Desalination Plant

New fish-friendly seawater intake pumps recently commissioned  at the Carlsbad Desalination Plant are among the most environmentally advanced intake pumps in the world.

The three intake pumps, manufactured by Indar, are part of a broader effort to ensure the long-term health of the marine environment near the Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant, which sits on the shores of Agua Hedionda Lagoon.

New intake pumps and state-of-the-art technology

Installation of the new intake pumps is part of a phased program to replace the existing seawater intake and discharge facilities with state-of-the-art technology to protect marine life that wasn’t available when the plant was operating with source water from the Encina Power Station. The closure of the power station in December 2018 led to temporary intake-discharge operations until the new intake pumps came online. The next steps include adding new intake screens, designed to prevent any sea-life larger than 1 millimeter (thicker than a credit card) from entering the plant.

Essential work during COVID-19 pandemic

The work to complete the construction and commissioning of the new fish-friendly seawater intake pumps was part of the essential work allowed under California guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic. The contractor, KiewitShea Joint Venture, worked in accordance with guidelines adopted by the State Building and Construction Trades Council and approved by Governor Gavin Newsom for essential construction. The contractor worked uninterrupted to complete the project per the June 30, 2020, deadline set by the Regional Water Quality Control Board without any health or safety violations.

The eventual transition of the desal plant to operate independent of the power plant was anticipated in the 2012 Water Purchase Agreement between Poseidon Water, which manages and operates the facility, and the San Diego County Water Authority, which purchases the water for use across the region. Currently, the plant provides about 10% of the region’s water supply.

New intakes part of advanced sea-life protection

New seawater intake pumps-Carlsbad Desalination Plant-Fish Friendly

The new intake screens are the final part of upgrades, which when complete in 2023, will make the Carlsbad Desalination Plant the first desalination facility in California to comply with the 2015 California Ocean Plan Amendment, which is among the most advanced sea-life protection measures in the world. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

The new intake screens are the final part of upgrades, which when complete in 2023, will make the Carlsbad Desalination Plant the first desalination facility in California to comply with the 2015 California Ocean Plan Amendment, which is among the most advanced sea-life protection measures in the world. Poseidon Water also plans to implement the same state-of-the-art intake system at its proposed Huntington Beach Seawater Desalination Plant in Orange County.

“We are excited to reach this milestone at the Carlsbad Desalination Plant that highlights our commitment to environmental stewardship,” said Jim Madaffer, chair of the Water Authority’s Board of Directors. “This plant will continue to be a vital regional resource for decades to come, and it demonstrates that environmental enhancements can go hand-in-hand with water supply sustainability.”

Carlsbad Desalination Plant improves sustainability

The Water Authority can purchase up to 56,000 acre-feet of water from the Carlsbad plant per year – enough to serve approximately 400,000 people annually. The new pumps, combined with additional future investments, will continue to provide the San Diego region with a critically important drought-proof water supply from the Pacific Ocean.

The plant is a major component of the Water Authority’s multi-decade strategy to increase the county’s water supply reliability through supply diversification. San Diego County’s water portfolio approach has been successful in minimizing the region’s vulnerability to drought and other water supply emergencies.

“Using the most advanced technology for the seawater intake system builds on the Carlsbad Desalination Plant’s long history of protecting and preserving the coastal environment,” said Poseidon CEO Carlos Riva. “The new intake system will make this one of the most environmentally sensitive desalination plants in the world, and further enhance our region’s water reliability and climate resiliency.”

For more information, go to the plant website, carlsbaddesal.com, or to the Water Authority’s website, sdcwa.org.

Work is now underway on the El Camino Real Potable Water Pipeline Replacement and Green Bike Lane Striping Project. Construction is expected to last about one year. Photo: Olivenhain Municipal Water District Water and traffic

Olivenhain MWD, City of Encinitas Work Together to Keep Water and Traffic Flowing

The City of Encinitas and the Olivenhain Municipal Water District are working together on a project that keeps water supply and traffic flowing.

To prevent water main breaks and ensure reliable service to its customers, Olivenhain Municipal Water District is proactive in its repair and replacement of aging water infrastructure.

Year-long construction project underway

Map of the 4,700 foot long stretch of improvements planned along North El Camino Real. Map: Olivenhain Municipal Water District

Map shows the 4,700 foot long stretch of improvements planned along North El Camino Real. Graphic: Olivenhain Municipal Water District

In early April, OMWD began construction to replace aging water infrastructure along El Camino Real in Encinitas. The work marks the start of the El Camino Real Potable Water Pipeline Replacement and Green Bike Lane Striping Project. Construction is expected to last about one year.

During the project, OMWD will replace approximately 4,700 linear feet of existing 12-inch diameter potable water pipeline along North El Camino Real from Encinitas Boulevard to Garden View Road and approximately 650 linear feet of existing 12-inch diameter pipeline between Via Molena and Mountain Vista Drive. Water service lines and fire hydrant laterals served by the existing pipelines will also be replaced.

The two pipelines being replaced were originally installed in 1961 and 1974, and are approaching the end of their lifespan.

The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that there more than 240,000 water main breaks in the United States every year. The main breaks waste over two trillion gallons of treated drinking water, but also interrupt water service to homes and businesses, and require costly and disruptive emergency repairs.

After OMWD’s pipeline work is complete, the City of Encinitas will implement traffic calming measures and improve safety and mobility for bicyclists along North El Camino Real from Encinitas Boulevard to Leucadia Boulevard by restriping and narrowing travel lanes.

The work will include adding bollards to existing bike lanes, applying green color to some areas on the bike lanes, and additional signage and pavement markings will also be installed.

OMWD will implement the lane restriping portion of the project on behalf of the City of Encinitas, which will take place concurrently with the pipeline replacement project.

Coordination minimizes impact on residents and businesses

The two agencies have combined efforts to maximize operational efficiencies and to reduce impacts to area residents and businesses.

Originally, OMWD’s project was scheduled to begin in 2021. Encinitas Council Member Joe Mosca and OMWD Board Treasurer Larry Watt identified the opportunity to streamline the two projects, maximizing efficiencies and minimizing impacts to the community. Because the City’s project had a deadline for grant funding, the two agencies ultimately decided it would be more efficient to advance the timeline of OMWD’s project.

“El Camino Real is a major thoroughfare and any work done there needs to be executed with maximum care and efficiency in mind to keep impacts to businesses and residents low,” said Larry Watt, OMWD board treasurer. “By coordinating the pipeline replacement project with the City’s project, the community can enjoy a continued safe and reliable water supply and improved road safety with the least disturbance possible.”

Environmental responsibility and safety

“The City of Encinitas is continuing its track record of environmental responsibility by making our streets safer for bicyclists and pedestrians through the Active Transportation Enhancing Project,” said Encinitas Councilmember Joe Mosca. “The City’s partnership with OMWD on this project highlights the benefits of collaboration between neighboring public agencies on critical infrastructure projects.”

Coronavirus pandemic helps minimize impact on traffic management

Instead of conducting two projects along the same stretch of road consecutively, the City of Encinitas and Olivenhain Municipal Water District are coordinating their work to minimize disruption to the community. Photo: Olivenhain Municipal Water District

Instead of conducting two projects along the same stretch of road consecutively, the City of Encinitas and Olivenhain Municipal Water District are coordinating their work to minimize disruption to the community. Photo: Olivenhain Municipal Water District

In addition to the partnership, OMWD has taken steps to minimize the impact of the project on residents and businesses along North El Camino Real. A City-approved traffic management plan will be implemented during construction. All work was originally scheduled to be completed at night to minimize traffic impacts.

As a result of the reduced traffic from the statewide stay-at-home order, the agencies adapted hours in April to 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday. The change allows work to be completed more efficiently and safely.

Olivenhain will work closely with the City to monitor the project’s impact on traffic on a week-by-week basis and modify the schedule as needed along with project contractor Teichert Energy and Utilities Group while still maintaining efficient operations.

OMWD anticipates a single shutdown of water service for most businesses/residences, kept as short as possible. Project updates are posted on its website. Email questions to or call 760-632-4235.

For questions specific to the City of Encinitas Active Transportation Enhancing Project, email or call 760-943-2211.

Water Utility Hero of the Week-George Crabbe-City of Carlsbad-primary

Water Utility Hero of the Week: George Crabbe, City of Carlsbad

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.

Water Utility Hero of the Week: George Crabbe

Job/Agency: City of Carlsbad Utility Worker II

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

I became interested in working in the water industry a few years back when I got into the Local 89 Laborers Union as an apprentice and landed different jobs.  The jobs just so happened to be underground water utility installations.  I loved it, but I started thinking long-term and with the support of my family and friends, the pieces fell into place.  Four years later, I am here at the Carlsbad Municipal Water District.

How has your job changed during the pandemic?

Our job in the field hasn’t changed.  I am very fortunate and thankful to still be working during this pandemic.  Our water operators must continue providing safe reliable drinking water and our departments must ensure that the water is delivered with little to no interruption.  The one change in the workplace is abiding to the social distancing requirements and the new norm of wearing masks.  This has been quite an adjustment since we work in groups while doing our preventative maintenance and water service/water main breaks repairs.

How are you keeping safe?

We are keeping safe by following all the requirements for social distancing.  We wear masks and gloves, wipe down our trucks, equipment and office spaces, and we make sure to wash our hands and use hand sanitizer frequently.

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

I am looking forward to all the state parks and trails opening and being able to go out and enjoy time with my family and friends.  I am looking forward to people being able to go back to work and life going back to normal.

Editor’s note: 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

Essential Repairs Completed on Pipeline 5 in North County

The San Diego County Water Authority and its contractors have completed essential repairs on a section of Pipeline 5 in North San Diego County between Fallbrook and Escondido. The repairs included installing 156 feet of carbon fiber liner inside the 96-inch pre-stressed concrete cylinder pipe to extend its service life. The pipeline was returned to normal service over the weekend – ahead of the original schedule.

Escondido Water Quality Lab Byron Odwazny, Associate Chemist, performs an analysis for total coliforms. Photo: City of Escondido

Water Quality Lab Team Rises to Coronavirus Pandemic Challenges

The coronavirus pandemic forced the City of Escondido’s Water Quality Laboratory to rethink its lab operations without compromising community health or employee wellbeing while ensuring the clean, safe, and efficient operation of the city. Through teamwork and creative thinking, the lab found success in maintaining its essential work.

“Whether we have a pandemic or not, people still want to open their taps and have clean drinking water,” said Ralph Ginese, supervising chemist with the City of Escondido.

Hale Avenue Resource Recovery Facility Laboratory Superintendent Nicki Branch says employee safety was addressed first.

“We immediately enforced the six-foot social distancing requirement and frequent handwashing,” said Branch. “The facility cleaning staff increased disinfection wipedown of all surfaces. We stopped having group staff and safety meetings by switching to online. We have changed our work schedule, essentially cutting it in half on a rotating schedule and allowing all employees to be able to telecommute from home periodically.”

The 14 employees have been provided additional personal protective equipment including facemasks.

“Staff is able to do administrative work, lab paperwork, study for exams, safety training, research on the industry and attend webinars,” said Branch.

Half of the staff members remain at the lab facility full-time, where they conduct analyses to verify the quality of wastewater treatment processes to safeguard community health, as well as required monthly and quarterly testing.

Unseasonal rainfall creates additional challenges

As part of ongoing monitoring at the Escondido Water Quality Lab, Associate Chemist Sarah Shapard performs tests analyzing for ammonia. Photo: City of Escondido

As part of ongoing monitoring at the Escondido Water Quality Lab, Associate Chemist Sarah Shapard performs tests analyzing for ammonia. Photo: City of Escondido

Recent heavy rains in Escondido complicated the testing process. Branch said several lab staff were placed on call in the event additional testing was needed due to a possible emergency-permitted tertiary discharge to nearby Escondido Creek due to high flows after five days of rain.

“They were all game to come in if needed on a Saturday to assist, but fortunately the operations staff worked miracles to keep us from discharging,” said Branch. “Heavy rains also caused a situation where additional sampling of lakes for drinking water analysis occurred, and the lab staff responded immediately to help the drinking water division with sampling and analysis.”

The Escondido lab routinely tests six sample sites along the outfall line.

“It’s a full-blown scan, so getting samples to contact labs would have been a real challenge,” said Ginese, crediting the work of the city’s operations staff to prevent any discharge into the creek.

“I am so proud of all the staff at the HARRF Laboratory for responding to this Covid -19 pandemic in a professional manner, adapting quickly to our City policies requiring social distancing, and for offering to come in on emergency situations when needed,” said Branch.

The San Diego County Water Authority and its 24 member agencies have increased regional coordination and communication to ensure the coronavirus pandemic does not impact safe and secure water service for San Diego County.

READ MORE: Escondido Employee Named California Laboratory Person of the Year

 

Construction Begins on Essential Water Project in Mission Trails Regional Park

The San Diego County Water Authority is making progress on the construction of a new 5 million gallon underground reservoir in Mission Trails Regional Park. The underground reservoir is also known as a flow regulatory structure.

Classified as a “critical or essential” infrastructure project during the COVID-19 response, the project is moving forward to stay on schedule.