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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.

City of Escondido Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator Carrie Selby is among a growing number of women working in water and wastewater industry careers. Photo: City of Escondido

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

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. Carrie Selby, City of Escondido Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator, is the Water Utility Hero of the Week.

Water Utility Hero of the Week: Carrie Selby

Job/Agency: City of Escondido Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator

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

I worked security at Lake Skinner for MWD in 2002, and very much wanted to advance my career but was not sure how. Until, I came across a flyer for an operator position. This interested me, so I asked one of the operators who worked there, how to get into the field. He provided me some materials and this immediately peaked my interest. I ended up applying at another agency and was hired as an Operator-In-Training. Eighteen years later, I am still in the field and currently hold a Grade 3 Certification.

How has your job changed during the pandemic?

Although we regularly practiced extremely good hygiene at the plant. We now have taken extra precautions such as, wearing facemasks, and maintaining social distancing. Temperature stations are now our new norm. We have to take our temperature prior to starting our shift.

How are you keeping safe?

I come to work in proper attire and practice extra sanitizing precautions. I always make sure to change out of anything that I wear at work prior to going home.

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

I am looking forward to getting back to traveling and adventuring out to some hiking trails. Nature is fuel to my soul! I also look forward to spending time with family.

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

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

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.

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.

Key Findings: The Guardian’s Water Poverty Investigation in 12 US Cities

Water is essential to life. Yet running water is becoming unaffordable across the US, in cities large and small. Water bills weigh heavily on many Americans as utilities hike up prices to pay for environmental clean-ups, infrastructure upgrades and climate emergency defenses to deal with floods and droughts. Federal funding for America’s ageing water system has plummeted, and as a result a growing number of households are unable to afford to pay their bills; millions of homes are being disconnected or put into foreclosure every year.

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

Fallbrook PUD Board Members Tour Construction Project

As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, public agencies have found creative solutions to holding meetings in compliance with the State of California’s meeting laws. Recently, Fallbrook Public Utility District board members stepped away from their video screens, using the opportunity to take a field trip to view a new project while conducting a traveling board meeting.
The Santa Margarita River Conjunctive Use Project is a joint project with Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, and will eventually supply about 30% of the District’s water, and virtually all of Camp Pendleton’s water.

Panelists Set to Explain Laws Limiting Water Consumption

Panelists from several water districts will give updates on new laws affecting water consumption in California during an American Liberty Forum of Ramona event set for Saturday, June 27.

The free forum on Water Regulations Today and Tomorrow will be held at Ramona Mainstage, 626 Main St. Doors open at 11 a.m. and a video program starts at 11:30 a.m.

The focus will be on Senate Bill 606 and Assembly Bill 1668.

SB 606 is in response to mandates that California achieve a 20 percent reduction in urban per capita water use by Dec. 31, 2020. Existing law requires each urban retail water supplier to develop urban water use targets and an interim urban water use target.

AB 1668 would require the state Water Resources Control Board to adopt long-term standards for the efficient use of water and would establish specified standards for per capita daily indoor residential water use.

Sweetwater Authority Taps Innovative Technology to Ensure Water Quality

The Sweetwater Authority recently began a multiyear water main flushing program using innovative technology to clean all 400 miles of pipeline in its system. It’s part of Sweetwater Authority’s use of the latest technology to deliver a safe, reliable water supply to its South San Diego County customers.

The Sweetwater Authority will use innovative technology to flush all 400 miles of its system pipelines. Pnoto: Sweetwater Authority

Sweetwater Authority Taps Innovative Technology to Ensure Water Quality

The Sweetwater Authority recently began a multiyear water main flushing program using innovative technology to clean all 400 miles of pipeline in its system. It’s part of Sweetwater Authority’s use of the latest technology to deliver a safe, reliable water supply to its South San Diego County customers.

Water main flushing cleans pipeline interiors by sending a rapid flow of water through them. Sweetwater’s program is the first in the region to use a new, innovative technology resulting in less environmental impact.

“We’re committed to providing our customers with high-quality water, ensuring that every drop meets safety standards and protects public health,” said Tish Berge, Sweetwater Authority general manager. “We’re also dedicated to providing the safe, reliable water through the use of best available technology and sustainable practices.”

See the system in action in the following video. A Spanish language version is also available.

New method avoids storm drain discharge

Traditional flushing methods release water from fire hydrants at a high speed in order to flush out naturally occurring sediments accumulating in water pipes over time. Although the sediment itself is harmless, it can eventually affect water color and taste. The water used to clean the pipes often cannot be captured and ends up in the storm drain system.

The bulk of Sweetwater Authority‘s flushing program now eliminates the need to discharge water from fire hydrants during the cleaning process while delivering the same results.

With the closed-loop system and increased controls, crews are able to effectively and thoroughly flush large sections of pipeline with a single setup and staging area. This more efficient setup is less labor-intensive and allows the crew to maintain a safe hub for operations. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

With the closed-loop system and increased controls, crews are able to effectively and thoroughly flush large sections of pipeline with a single setup and staging area. This more efficient setup is less labor-intensive and allows the crew to maintain a safe hub for operations. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

Crews identify all pipes, valves, and fire hydrants located in the area to be flushed. Next, crews connect one end of a hose to a hydrant and the other end of the hose to the no discharge, or NO-DES flushing unit. The process repeats, connecting a second hose to another hydrant and the other end back into the flushing unit, creating a temporary closed loop.

Once the NO-DES flushing unit is turned on and the hydrants are open, water will push through the loop at high pressure, disrupting any accumulated sediment on the inside of the pipes. The water is pushed through a series of sock-like filters, which remove those sediments and return clean, high-quality water back into the system.

Crews closely monitor the filtration system and water quality to determine when flushing of each pipeline segment is complete.

Innovative technology, efficient and environmentally responsible

Additional member water agencies have indicated an interest in the cost-effectiveness of purchasing the NO-DES flushing units for the region and collaborating to create a shared-use program with the technology. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

Additional member water agencies have indicated an interest in the cost-effectiveness of purchasing the NO-DES flushing units for the region and collaborating to create a shared-use program with the technology. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

With the closed-loop system and increased controls, crews are able to effectively and thoroughly flush large sections of pipeline with a single setup and staging area. This more efficient setup is less labor-intensive and allows the crew to maintain a safe hub for operations.

In the National City area 75.8 miles of pipeline was recently flushed. Crews are now completing work in the Bonita area, and then will start work in Chula Vista.

Additional water agencies have indicated an interest in the cost-effectiveness of purchasing the NO-DES flushing units for the region and collaborating to create a shared-use program with the innovative technology.

“Securing a local water supply to ensure the water delivered is of the highest quality through the best technology in our projects and programs helps to maximize value for our customers while also being sustainable,” said Berge.

For more information on the program, go to www.sweetwater.org/flushing.