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Helix Water District Names Brian Olney New General Manager

The Helix Water District Board of Directors appointed Brian Olney as the organization’s new general manager, effective September 1, 2022. Olney was previously the Assistant General Manager and before that, the water district’s Director of Water Quality and System Operations.  He has 28 years of experience in the water industry.

Smooth Sailing Into SkillBridge for Navy Veteran Edwin McBride

Edwin McBride decided 20 years in the U.S. Navy wasn’t enough time in the water, so he dove into the SkillBridge Program to intern at the San Diego County Water Authority. The program is helping military veterans transition to career-track training opportunities, including work in the water and wastewater industry.

Edwin McBride-SkillBridge Program-Water Industry

Smooth Sailing Into SkillBridge for Navy Veteran Edwin McBride

Edwin McBride decided 20 years in the U.S. Navy wasn’t enough time in the water, so he dove into the SkillBridge Program to intern at the San Diego County Water Authority. The program is helping military veterans transition to career-track training opportunities, including work in the water and wastewater industry.

Despite his two decades away from the civilian workforce, McBride said he experienced an easy transition into his role as a Rotating Equipment Technician Intern as a part of the SkillBridge program.

“The day-to-day job I’m doing with these guys at the Water Authority in the rotating shop is really no different than what I’ve done on the ships,” said McBride. “Still working on pumps, piping valves, stuff like that.”

Smooth transition for Edwin McBride

Part of his smooth transition can be attributed to McBride coming into the internship with applicable training and job duties during his time in the Navy. Since the work he did in the Navy was skills based, McBride was able to gain multiple qualifications and certifications during his time there that are applicable to the water industry.

“Every time you rotate from one unit to another in the Navy, which is about every 3-5 years, you’re expected to take on a new job … and the Navy recognizes you’re going to need these skills to be proficient in that trade so you would do what we would call trade school,” he said.

After three to four months of school in between units, another certification or qualification is earned, and this is what McBride attributes to his collection of certifications in numerous mechanical disciplines.

SkillBridge Program a “win-win”

Since joining the federal program in June 2020, the Water Authority has had five SkillBridge interns working in various departments. The program is a win-win for both employers and the transitioning military service member – the military service member can work fulltime in a participating agency for the last 180 days of their active duty gaining valuable civilian work experience, and the employer gains early access to the extensive experience, skills, and unmatched work ethos service members bring to the workforce, all at a very low cost. The service member continues to earn his wages and benefits from the military during the internship.

McBride said he discovered the program after hearing a few of his friends talk about it and did his own research to see if there were any opportunities to intern in his desired field.

“I started digging around a little and there were a few mechanical ones [internships] and the Water Authority was one. In my career in the Navy I worked a lot with pumps, water movement, filtration, water treatment and figured it would be a pretty easy transition from military to civilian skills,” McBride said.

Job opportunities in water industry due to “silver tsunami”

Just two months into the program, McBride decided he would like to continue working in Southern California’s water industry, preferably at the Water Authority, after his time in SkillBridge and the Navy is complete.

“It’s been fun so far, two months in, four to go. I hope this leads to a full-time job in the industry,” McBride said.

The opportunities for both transitioning servicemembers and local water agencies are significant. More than 30,000 service members separate from the military each year in California, and more than half are transitioning out of active duty in the San Diego region.

Roughly half of the current water industry workforce in the San Diego region will be eligible to retire in the next 15 years – and approximately 1,400 water and wastewater industry jobs are expected to open in the region in the next five years.

SkillBridge Interns Explore Career Opportunities After Military Service

The San Diego County Water Authority is providing training opportunities to military veterans looking for new careers in public service as part of the Skillbridge Program. The program is helping military veterans transition to career-track training opportunities, including work in the water and wastewater industry.

Multiple Water and Wastewater Industry Awards Won by City of Escondido

The City of Escondido scored wins in three categories at the annual California Water Environment Association awards on January 29. CWEA is California’s oldest and most prominent association of water protection professionals.

Hale Avenue Facility Named San Diego Section Wastewater Plant of the Year

The City of Escondido’s Hale Avenue Resource Recovery Facility, HARRF won the 2022 Wastewater Plant of the Year Photo: City of Escondido wastewater industry awards

The City of Escondido’s Hale Avenue Resource Recovery Facility, or HARRF, won the 2022 Wastewater Plant of the Year Photo: City of Escondido

The City of Escondido’s Hale Avenue Resource Recovery Facility (HARRF) won the 2022 Wastewater Plant of the Year (Medium Category). The HARRF is designed to treat up to 18 million gallons per day from the City of Escondido and the Rancho Bernardo area of the City of San Diego. The plant operates 24 hours a day, producing recycled water for the City of Escondido, along with organic materials called biosolids for beneficial reuse in Yuma, Arizona as agricultural soil amendments.

Professional staff make use of technology to manage plant operations with real-time information. A significant outcome is the consistent production of high-quality effluent, which allows the HARRF to drastically reduce chemical use in producing recycled water.

The City of Escondido wastewater department continually strives for the most cost-effective and process-minded maintenance program to minimize emergency calls or system failures. Over the past five years, the maintenance department has seen a reduction in emergency callouts by 75% by implementing an aggressive preventative maintenance and testing program.

Collection System of the Year Award

Escondido also won recognition for Collection System of the Year (Medium Category). The City of Escondido has 380 miles of collection system pipelines, dating back to 1928. As the system ages, aggressive maintenance, rehabilitation, and replacement are imperative. The 16-person team cleans all 380 miles in the system annually. Older lines at risk of failing get priority replacement.

Where acceptable, crews rehabilitate lines with liners as a relatively inexpensive alternative to digging trenches for complete replacement. The liners have a 25- to 30-year lifespan. In 2021, 1,112 linear feet of pipeline were relined. Open trench replacement work was performed on 450 feet of pipeline.

Jorge Huitron Honored as Laboratory Analyst of the Year

Jorge Huitron (second from right) receives his award as Laboratory Person of the Year. Photo: City of Escondido wastewater industry awards

Jorge Huitron (second from right) receives his award as Lab Analyst of the Year. Photo: City of Escondido

Escondido Lab Technician II Jorge Hutiron’s outstanding work won recognition with the Lab Analyst of the Year award.

Huitron conducts complex water and wastewater analyses, from bench chemistry to bacteriological assessments, sample setup, data entry, and clean-up. His work assures all water supplies are safe for users.

Huitron trains both new and seasoned Escondido employees based on four decades of experience. Colleagues comment they learn something new from Huitron, even those with years of experience.

“Incredible asset”

“Jorge has been an incredible asset,” said Ralph Ginese, Supervising  Chemist, who nominated Huitron. “There really isn’t anything Jorge does not do. We are thankful to have him working with us.” Ginese said the 66-year-old veteran professional did his work so quietly over the years, it took the coronavirus pandemic to call attention to his effort, expertise, and value as a team player.

The nomination also cites Huitron’s ability to keep morale high during the pandemic through his leadership, teamwork, training, sharing, and empathy, along with ongoing consistency and reliability. “Jorge has a gleam in his eye, pride as he watches his colleagues learn from his experiences,” wrote Ginese in his nomination. “Laughter and smiles cross everyone’s face as he shares his stories of failures and success. Up until last year, this part of Jorge has been hidden. He now encompasses every attribute of what it means to be Laboratory Person of the Year.”

Each of the 20 CWEA award categories honors exceptional CWEA members and California wastewater professionals, facilities, and agencies. The program seeks to recognize outstanding achievements within the wastewater field, improve the professional status of all personnel working in the wastewater industry and related fields and stimulate public awareness of the importance of wastewater treatment to public health and the water environment.

(Editor’s note: The City of Escondido is one of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies that deliver water across the metropolitan San Diego region.)

Water News Network-honored-Pure Water Oceanside

Water News Network Website Honored

The Water News Network was honored with awards from several organizations recently, including the Public Relations Society of America.

On November 18, the WNN received a Bronze Bernays Award of Merit in the websites category from the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) San Diego/Imperial County chapter. It is the second consecutive year the WNN website has received this award.

Now in its fourth year of operation, the WNN is recognized as a reliable source of factual information upholding the standards of journalism to provide news about the water and wastewater industry to the San Diego region and the Southwest United States.

Honored by San Diego Press Club

In October, the WNN website was awarded first place as the Best Public Service or Consumer Advocacy Website by the San Diego Press Club. It is the fourth consecutive year the WNN has received this honor.

Water News Network staff also received three awards from the San Diego Press Club in 2021:

  • Kimberlyn Velasquez, second place in the Photography-Video category for her video “Hydroelectric and Pressure Control Facility Upgrades,” which focused on the replacement of two truck-sized valves in central San Diego.
  • Ed Joyce, second place in the Series-Light Feature category for the WNN series “Water Utility Hero of the Week,” about the San Diego County region’s water and wastewater industry employees working during the coronavirus pandemic, and third place in the Environment Reporting category, for the original WNN story “La Niña and California’s New Water Year.”

The Water News Network was given an EPIC Award in 2020 as the Best California Public Agency Website by CAPIO (California Public Information Officers Organization). CAPIO EPIC Awards recognize the “best of the best” in government communications throughout the state.

The Water News Network specializes in covering water and wastewater industry stories in the San Diego County region, focusing on the people and projects that ensure a safe, reliable and plentiful water supply flows to the region’s 3.3 million residents and its $253 billion economy.

(Editor’s note: News about the water and wastewater industry published in the Water News Network would not be possible without the contributions from the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies, that deliver water across the metropolitan San Diego region.)

Celebrating Veterans with a Career Day in Water

The San Diego County Water Authority and its 24 member agencies recognize military veterans for their service and actively recruit vets to fill new career opportunities in the water and wastewater industry. The Center for Water Studies at Cuyamaca College and San Diego County water agencies are hosting a free career day on January 19, 2022 from 8:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. for veterans looking to transition into the water and wastewater industry.

Veterans Serving Public in Water Industry Careers

Water industry professionals and members of the U.S. armed forces have a shared commitment to serving the public. When they leave active-duty roles, military veterans tap their experience and skills to work in water sector jobs. The San Diego County Water Authority and its 24 member agencies, recognizes the contributions of veterans to the San Diego region’s water industry on Veterans Day and throughout the year.

Lance Cpl. Daniel Bordenave, a water support technician with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force - Southern Command, sets up a lightweight water purification system during a command post exercise at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Water support technician Marines used lightweight water purification systems to purify water before providing it to the combat engineer Marines working at another site. Photo: Marines.mil Lance Cpl. Daniel Bordenave, a water support technician with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force - Southern Command, sets up a lightweight water purification system during a command post exercise at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Water support technician Marines used lightweight water purification systems to purify water before providing it to the combat engineer Marines working at another site. Photo: Marines.mil

Veterans Serving Public in Water Industry Careers

Water industry professionals and members of the U.S. armed forces have a shared commitment to serving the public. When they leave active-duty roles, military veterans tap their experience and skills to work in water sector jobs. The San Diego County Water Authority and its 24 member agencies, recognizes the contributions of veterans to the San Diego region’s water industry on Veterans Day and throughout the year.

The San Diego County region employs approximately 4,500 water and wastewater workers, many of whom have successfully transitioned from the military to a new career. Vallecitos Water District Senior Water Systems Operator Richie Arballo said his experience in the U.S. Marine Corps planted the seed.

“Water, potable water, is always a great mission”

“My job in the military was a water support technician,” said Arballo. “I didn’t really know much about water. I just knew I loved working with water.”

At Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina, Arballo worked with water distribution, water purification, and water installation.

“As a veteran, you’re trained to always complete your job,” he said. “You never leave anything undone. In the military, you never leave anyone behind. We know the mission comes first. Water, potable water, is always a great mission.”

Water and wastewater careers are a good fit

Lance Cpl. Anthony Bryan, a water support technician with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force - Southern Command, reviews recently purified water’s chlorine level during an exercise at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Water support technician Marines used lightweight water purification systems to purify water before providing it to the combat engineer Marines working at another site. Photo: Marines.mil

Lance Cpl. Anthony Bryan, a water support technician with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force – Southern Command, reviews recently purified water’s chlorine level during an exercise at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Water support technician Marines used lightweight water purification systems to purify water before providing it to the combat engineer Marines working at another site. Photo: Marines.mil

Dr. Stuart Karasik, former training manager for the City of San Diego, listed these reasons why water industry careers are so well suited to veterans:

  • They develop leadership responsibilities early in their careers. Military squad leaders are frequently in their early 20s.
  • They respond calmly in stressful situations and maintain focus on their mission. Stressful situations can be the norm in the military and standard in the water sector.
  • They possess a personal sense of responsibility and duty.
  • There is consistent reinforcement of the importance of teamwork and individual responsibility to complete any mission.
  • They have good organization skills. Scheduling, planning, and workflow are critical activities in the water sector.
Richie Arballo credits his own Marine Corps training for his successful transitionn to a civilian water industry career. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Richie Arballo credits his own Marine Corps training for his successful transition to a civilian water industry career. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Arballo encouraged veterans to seek training at one of the many San Diego regional programs at community colleges, including Cuyamaca College Center for Water Studies, Palomar College, CSU San Marcos, and National University. Options range from certificate programs to public administration and engineering degrees.

“If you are making the decision to get out of the military, don’t be scared,” said Arballo. “The military has prepared you to be very reliable and responsible. Employers out here, that’s what they’re looking for.”

For current jobs in the San Diego County region’s water and wastewater industry, go to: www.sandiegowaterworks.org/

(Editor’s note: The Vallecitos Water District and Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton are two of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies that deliver water across the metropolitan San Diego region.)

Learn About Water Industry Career Opportunities From the Pros

Looking for a challenging and satisfying career? Current and aspiring professionals can learn about water industry career opportunities through the San Diego County Water Authority’s “Faces of the Water Industry” social media outreach campaign in October.

The campaign, inspired by ACWA’s California Water Professionals Appreciation Week, highlights the San Diego region’s water and wastewater professionals and the essential work that they do to provide safe and reliable water supplies for 3.3 million people and a $253 billion economy.