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Recognizing the People Behind the Pipes
Water Professionals Appreciation Week
Media Contact: Sue Stephenson, 925-875-2295 (office) 925-570-5739 (cell), firstname.lastname@example.org
Shortly after midnight on September 6, on-call water systems operator Ray Robles received an alarm from a Dublin San Ramon Services District drinking water pumping station in central Dublin. Suction pressure had suddenly fallen to near zero.
Three minutes later, City of Dublin’s police dispatch called Robles to report pavement buckling due to a water main break on nearby Tuscany Drive. As Robles arrived on the scene, Alameda County fire fighters had already stopped the flow by turning off the water to a large number of homes. Robles adjusted the valves so only 25 homes were without water during repairs. As the water drained off the street, the pavement over the leak began cracking and sinking.
Photo: Dublin San Ramon Services District water operator Tim Johnson (left) sprays water around a cracked 14-inch water main on Tuscany Drive in Dublin on September 6. Co-worker Rick Lawrence operates the vacuum truck boom to remove the mud during the 27-hour repair job.
During the next 27 hours, nine DSRSD employees responded to help. By 8 a.m., DSRSD’s emergency on-call contractor, McGuire and Hester, also had a crew of four working on repairs. They would discover a 20-foot crack in the 14-inch water main buried 10 feet under the street. As the excavation grew, the City of Dublin sent a building inspector to make sure nearby homes were safe.
On his way to the scene at 3:30 a.m., DSRSD Acting Field Operations Supervisor Levi Fuller picked up 25 cases of bottled water, one for each of the homes where the water was off. Fuller stayed on site until 3:30 a.m. the next day, when repairs were finished and everyone’s water was back on.
Other staff brought in larger jugs of water so residents could flush their toilets and special equipment to vacuum up mud. DSRSD’s communications staff was there 10 hours, handing out the water, answering questions, and coordinating with Torrey Pines Homeowners Association Manager Paula Asbury, who kept residents informed.
“Those poor guys worked for more than 24 hours (same guys the whole time) and didn’t leave until it was repaired,” said a resident in a Nextdoor post that expressed her appreciation for the rapid response.
“Stories like this happen every day, in every community,” said DSRSD General Manager Dan McIntyre. “Our people keep the water on and the sewers and treatment plants working 24/7, but they’re rarely visible until something goes wrong. It’s a real boost when our customers go out of their way to say thank you.”
Major Pipe Breaks Rare for DSRSD
Pipe failures of this size are rare in Dublin and the Dougherty Valley area of San Ramon where DSRSD provides water service. Robles remembers only two in his 12 years with DSRSD. Smaller leaks—such as broken meter connections that send water flowing down the gutter—may happen once or twice a week. The District’s field operations staff also responds immediately to such incidents.
Most of the time, however, DSRSD staff use networked, automated controls to remotely monitor and communicate with pump stations, reservoirs, turnouts, and sewer facilities. They investigate and troubleshoot system alerts through an online dashboard, from the main control room or anywhere out in the field. This year DSRSD completed a $6.7 million, eight-year modernization of its automated control system and network.
Water Professionals Earn Statewide Recognition
California’s legislature has just established Water Professionals Appreciation Week to highlight the important role of water industry professionals and local public water agencies in ensuring safe and reliable water, wastewater, and recycled water services. The annual event begins the first Saturday of October and ends the Sunday of the following weekend—October 7 to 15 in 2017.
During the week, DSRSD is hosting a tour of its water system for local elected officials and their staff. DSRSD employees will celebrate the event with a potluck barbecue.
Water Industry Needs More Workers
Recent labor studies estimate that 60,000 people work in the water industry in California and the industry needs roughly 6,000 new employees each year due to turnover. A wave of retiring baby boomers has created many opportunities at DSRSD. In the last year, the District hired replacements for 23 percent of its staff, including five water/wastewater system operators. DSRSD will be hiring two more operators before the end of 2017 as well as three mechanics that maintain major equipment.
To attract new men and women to the field, DSRSD has teamed up with other agencies and Solano Community College to offer training that prepares students to take state certification exams in water operations. The Bay Area Consortium for Water and Wastewater Education offers evening courses taught by working professionals at treatment plants throughout the Bay Area, including DSRSD’s facility in Pleasanton. The 22-agency partnership also pays for students’ tuition and books.
Founded in 1953, DSRSD serves 178,000 people, providing potable and recycled water service to Dublin and the Dougherty Valley area of San Ramon, wastewater collection and treatment to Dublin and south San Ramon, and wastewater treatment to Pleasanton (by contract). ). DSRSD also operates the Jeffrey G. Hansen Water Recycling Plant and a backbone recycled water distribution system on behalf of the San Ramon Valley Recycled Water Program. The District office is located at 7051 Dublin Blvd., Dublin CA, 94568. For more information about the District, visit www.dsrsd.com.
About Water Professionals Appreciation Week
California's first-ever Water Professionals Appreciation Week is part of a new annual designation intended to highlight the important role of water industry professionals and local public water agencies in California. Water Professionals Appreciation Week was established by Senate Concurrent Resolution 80, approved by the Legislature on September 13 and chaptered on September 19. The resolution, authored by Sen. Bill Dodd (D-Napa), was sponsored by a coalition that was led by the Association of California Water Agencies and included WateReuse California, California Municipal Utilities Association, California Association of Sanitation Agencies, California Water Association, and California Water Environment Association.
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