Learn about the work and the skilled workers that keep EBMUD's water and wastewater systems flowing. Follow us on Twitter @ebmud to see our regular employee profiles.
Yvonne, Heavy Equipment Operator
Doing the Heavy Lifting.
Yvonne works in the EBMUD pipeline construction and equipment division, operating heavy equipment to dig out trenches for new water mains. While maneuvering the machinery, Yvonne may dig out 160 feet of trench so pipe can be lowered in. Once that’s complete, she works with her team to backfill the trench and make sure it’s the right depth for other EBMUD staff to pave at the end of the day.
During her 17 years with EBMUD, Yvonne says she’s been encouraged to move ahead in her career. With the help of the District’s tuition reimbursement program she has taken classes in subjects including math and interview skills: “We are encouraged to take advantage of this great program to improve our skills.”
On being one of only a few women in her profession, Yvonne says: “I’m a little outnumbered! When I’m operating the equipment out in the field, people who see me don’t always realize there’s a woman on the excavator or loader. They’re often surprised, but I just do my job and go about my business."
“I get along well with everybody and I’m treated well. There’s a lot of respect on the job.”
Joe, Assistant Wastewater Shift Supervisor
Keeping the Bay clean.
Joe is an assistant wastewater shift supervisor at EBMUD’s Wastewater Treatment Plant below the MacArthur Maze. He oversees work to help protect our San Francisco Bay by cleaning wastewater before it is discharged into the Bay. After nearly 9 years with EBMUD, he says nothing could tempt him away from the work he does here.
“I was working in the engineering department at a major company that makes engines for airplanes, but I was producing paper and computer files all day,” Joe said. “The biggest thing that was different when I got here was getting dirty on a daily basis. I like working with my hands. For someone with my education level and skill set, this is a dream job — I feel like I won the lottery.”
Joe began his employment as a treatment plant operator and worked his way up to his current position. He recently re-launched EBMUD’s Wastewater Treatment Plant tours, which had been dormant for years.
“This place is where you can build a career, the kind of place where you can plan to be for decades. It’s not just another job in a series of jobs. I think the workload is reasonable, the job duties are well-defined and the supervisors set clear, reasonable expectation. I really enjoy that.”
Tara, Associate Civil Engineer
Taking on technology
Tara is an Associate Civil Engineer in EBMUD’s Pipeline Infrastructure Division, where she designs and implements the renewal and replacement of some of the District’s 4,200 miles of water pipe. Tara’s favorite part of her job is looking for ways to innovate: “We’re always looking for new tools or materials to use.”
Tara is working on two projects which use technology that will help EBMUD quicken the pace of pipeline renewal. One uses a new form of PVC, called PVCO pipe, which is more resilient to earthquakes. Developed in Canada, this pipe has been tested at the world’s premier seismic testing facility for pipelines at Cornell University. EBMUD is the first in the U.S. to use this kind of pipe.
Tara is also working with a trenchless technology which coats the inside of existing pipes with a hard resin. “The resulting pipe-within-a-pipe has an anticipated lifespan of more than 50 years, and has the benefit of being a faster process that’s less disruptive to neighbors than traditional pipeline replacement.”
Tara has been with EBMUD for 11 years but her aspirations to be part of the team began well before that.
“When I was younger, I used to run around EBMUD’s Lafayette Reservoir with my mom. It was so pretty, that I wanted to work for the District.”
Ben, Water Distribution Plumber III
Knowing the system.
Ben loves working with water and on a system that serves the public. It’s one of those great things we rely on every day. As a plumber, Ben is out on the streets every day, meeting with residents, builders, and constantly learning.
Ben spent 12 years working as a union laborer saw-cutting concrete for construction projects around the Bay Area. Five years ago, he qualified as a water distribution plumber and began working on the pipes and infrastructure that keeps water moving.
Ben works out of EBMUD's North Yard in Richmond. He and his team members are constantly on the move even in these recent rains. Having grown up in Michoacán, Mexico and immigrating to the Bay Area at age 16, he still remembers the limited water available in his hometown. He enjoys teaching friends, relatives, and people on the street about the great system we rely on every day.
He says the question: “How many times have you been without water?” is always a conversation starter.
“As a plumber, you need to know what to look for. You need to know this system. It’s like a great treasure hunt, under the streets. I’m learning every day.”
Keeping up with the signs.
Nalani runs the EBMUD sign shop and spends her days designing, building, and in some cases installing everything from basic signage (think construction or project notice signs to alert the public to EBMUD field work) to signs at EBMUD facilities, banners and recognition plaques. Because of the diversity of her work and the materials she works with, she says, “I’m not what people think of as a typical carpenter.”
Nalani gets a lot of satisfaction from working on employee recognition materials, including a wooden plaque in the shape of a drop of water, which is given to EBMUD staff after 20 years of service. “I came up with the idea, designed it, and now I build each one by hand to honor our dedicated employees.” She’s also proud of her work on several four-by-twelve foot signs at EBMUD’s San Pablo Reservoir watershed headquarters. Nalani says with a smile: “I have a lot of fun tools."
As for what has kept her at EBMUD for ten years, Nalani says: “The carpenters, painters, machinists and electricians I work with are great tradespeople. They’re honest, we respect each other, and there’s a real sense of community."
“There’s a level of integrity and pride in working at EBMUD."
Joy, Senior Administrative Clerk
Making equity count.Joy works in EBMUD’s contract equity program, which enhances opportunities for business owners of all races, ethnicities and genders who are interested in doing business with the District. “We reach out and encourage minority- and women-owned, as well as disabled, veterans, especially small and local businesses – to bid on our contracts.”
Her role requires quality customer service, answering complicated questions from potential vendors. She also processes the complex forms detailing progress towards EBMUD goals in contract equity. “In my first month, I was just learning; now, six months in, I’m doing it myself. I see the finalized materials going to the Board of Directors and feel a sense of accomplishment.”
The work is deadline-driven and fast-paced, which suits Joy’s ability to multi-task and be flexible: “When someone says, 'I know you’re in the middle of something, but there’s a pending project that takes precedence,’ I do it, then I’m able to pick right up where I left off.”
Joy loves the diverse atmosphere at EBMUD: “This is the biggest company I’ve worked for. Seeing different people every day lifts my spirits up. Everyone is so welcoming.”
"It’s like a family, even though I’ve been here such a short time."
Steven, Senior Mechanic
Committing to quality.
Steven supervises and manages the workload of 16 mechanics that maintain EBMUD’s extensive fleet of heavy equipment. How extensive? EBMUD has approximately 1,200 vehicles, and half are larger than a pickup truck (like construction vehicles and dump trucks). Steven puts it this way: “Anything with dual wheels in the back, that’s in my shop.”
Steven has been with EBMUD for 14 years and a supervisor for 12 of those years. It can be a challenge to manage so many staff in multiple locations, from Oakland, to Stockton, to the Pardee reservoir in the Sierra foothills. But what makes it easier is this: “We hire great talent – the cream of the crop. We don’t take shortcuts. We fix what needs to be fixed, and as a result, our vehicles are less likely to break down when they're needed on a water main break.”
Steven says EBMUD provides many tools for staff to learn new skills. He's a graduate of EBMUD’s leadership academy, a member of the Public Fleet Supervisors Association, and belongs to the District’s Toastmasters club.
“There are many things that you can do here to better yourself—both your career and personally.”
Scott, Water Conservation Representative
Mastering the art of water efficiency.
Scott has dedicated his career to helping individuals, companies and landscape professionals become better stewards of a precious resource: water.
As an experienced landscape architect, 18 years ago he designed a water efficient landscape and irrigation plan for an East Bay homeowners association who installed significant upgrades to improve their outdoor water use and got an EBMUD rebate for their efforts. “It may be easy to glue pipes together, but it’s challenging to create an efficient design.” He appreciated the District’s efforts to spur on conservation – and that’s when he decided to work for EBMUD.
Now, Scott leads an EBMUD partnership with landscape industry professionals who share the same passion: engaging and teaching others about water efficiency. He reviews plans for new construction to ensure they meet strict guidelines and leads workshops for do-it-yourselfers and professionals on drip irrigation and irrigation scheduling. “Water conserving landscapes benefit us in more ways than saving water. They can add habitat, improve air and water quality plus save energy.”
Scott never tires of looking for a better way.
“I want to connect with people to share what I know, to learn together, and to help the environment.”
Louis, Paving Crew Foreman
Smoothing the way.Louis directs a paving crew of seven people, strategically planning the routing and scheduling of paving so East Bay residents can drive, bike, and walk over streets where pipe repairs or main breaks have recently taken place.
Louis occasionally drives over areas that he helped pave 25 years ago when he was first hired as a laborer with EBMUD. He shows the still-intact paving to his wife and children “like we’re on a field trip.” He’s happiest when working outdoors and in the field, where he interacts with EBMUD customers and the general public. Those interactions are almost universally positive: “People say thank you for fixing the street and the sidewalk.”
Louis says the best things about working for EBMUD are the friendships he’s built with people working at all levels of the organization. He points out that most of the paving foremen started out together as laborers, then rakers, before making foreman. He enjoys seeing his younger staff advance to the next level positions.
“It’s the greatest experience seeing people develop and grow.”
Tony, Manager of Facility Maintenance & Construction
Jumping in with both feetTony manages a division of 160 tradespeople: carpenters, electrical technicians, instrument technicians, machinists, painters, gardeners, facility specialists, and janitors. The group maintains the operations of District facilities – keeping them reliable and operational and getting them back online quickly and efficiently when they fail. He welcomes the daily challenges – “I don’t call them problems” – because with well-qualified staff and the right equipment, EBMUD is able to take on and manage the wide variety of challenges that come with providing water to 1.4 million people.
Tony came to EBMUD from General Electric 15 years ago as an assistant engineer in EBMUD’s electrical design group. He admits he had heard some negative things about public employees, but was quickly impressed by his EBMUD colleagues – “great people who love their jobs” – in operations, engineering, field work, and throughout the organization.
“I jumped in with both feet and never looked back.”
Mackenzie, Plant Maintenance Worker II
Improving the “underground forest.”
Mackenzie is in her first year at EBMUD and is already moving on up. Originally hired out of Oakland’s Laney College as a machinist and welder, she’s now apprenticing with experienced wastewater workers on her way to achieving a journeyman level in the trades.
Mackenzie is fascinated by what she calls the “underground forest” – the pipes and pumping systems that make the East Bay’s wastewater plant work. She still does a lot of welding to fix or modify equipment, but also spends her days learning how to improve (and in some cases overhaul) the valves and chemical systems in wastewater pumping stations and wet weather stations throughout the Bay Area.
Mackenzie is learning firsthand about how wastewater solids are removed, treated and reused— including the process to convert waste into energy. She lives near the wastewater plant and now feels more connected to the town she calls home.
“There’s a whole city under the city that no one ever sees – it makes me think about space very differently.”
Laura, Manager of Pipeline Construction & Equipment
Solving problems every day.
Laura spends her days managing EBMUD’s pipeline construction crews, ensuring pipeline replacements and road restorations stay on track. With 4,200 miles of pipe in the EBMUD water distribution system, Laura’s team – which includes plumbers, pavers, heavy equipment operators, truck drivers, and equipment maintenance techs – is always on the move.
Laura’s job is a juggling act that comes with construction work: managing nine crews, keeping materials and equipment fully utilized and moving, and addressing challenges that crop up. (Can’t get 40-foot pipe on a truck up that street? How about by helicopter?) She also ensures our work is coordinated with the cities, counties, other agencies, and public that are nearby.
Laura believes in her crews and knows that EBMUD can always find a solution that works for all and is in the best interest of our customers.