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.
Bryan, Water Treatment Supervisor
Around the clock
Bryan is a Water Treatment Plant Supervisor who oversees the Sobrante Water Treatment Plant in El Sobrante. He arrived at the District 26 years ago as an operator with ten years of experience under his belt from several different water agencies, and was ready for a new challenge – producing ozone at the Sobrante plant. Now, almost three decades later, he’s seen that old ozone infrastructure run its course and new technology take its place. Bryan has worked at all six EBMUD water treatment plants that provide water to our 1.4 million customers. Though he’s a supervisor at the Sobrante Water Treatment Plant, he has a soft spot for the San Pablo Water Treatment Plant because “it’s like an old car, historic, built in 1919.”
Bryan and his team manage water coming in and out of the water treatment plant around the clock. They work with water treatment chemicals, lab staff, water quality staff and other departments to produce safe drinking water to meet customer demand. It’s a job that requires a lot of autonomy since you often work alone. And it’s a job that can keep you on your toes.
“There’s no typical day in the water treatment world, you have to be able to adapt to new challenges because the public health of 1.4 million customers is on the line.” Bryan said. Bryan loves supervising because it allows him to teach others.
“This is a great place to work and even better when you are engaged,” he said. “So find what you’re good at, but don’t stop there.”
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.”
Paul, Associate Civil Engineer
A leader in removing lead
One of the most memorable moments in Paul’s career came via text message. When he began his career as an associate civil engineer at EBMUD in 2003, Paul’s first major assignment was to help the District develop a state assembly bill that took on one of the most significant water quality issues of our time: the Get the Lead Out campaign. That bill later became the federal standard for safe plumbing to eliminate lead contamination in tap water, and Paul remembers this as a formative moment in his life’s work.
“It was Friday afternoon and the Governor had all these bills on his desk, including our AB 1953, and we didn’t know what he was going to do,” Paul recalls. “For hours I would respond to all sorts of technical questions about the bill, and then it all went quiet. The next morning, my boss called me at home and he said ‘I received one text message: Bill signed.’ It was very awesome. Definitely one of those moments you don’t forget.”
Now his work has shifted to supporting EBMUD’s interests as they pertain to the Water Fix Delta tunnels project, which involves monitoring how other agencies are reacting to and influencing the proposal. Paul says the work is so important that he has doubled-down on his commitment to EBMUD.
“My role gives me some good perspective about what you choose to do with your life,” Paul said. “I feel good about the work I do here, and I don’t ever feel like I have to apologize to my kids for what we’re doing to the environment. This organization is efficient and effective and it feels like we’re always on the right side of things.”
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."
Edna, Environmental Health & Safety Specialist II
Saving lives with good listening.
Before her current assignment ensuring worker health and safety for EBMUD’s wastewater system, Edna managed an audit program that reviewed safety compliance at over one hundred EBMUD facilities. As a result, she has been inside more EBMUD facilities—from water treatment plants to pumping plants – in the past two years than many other employees have in their entire careers. As a result of Edna’s visits, her colleagues can feel more safe and at ease in their workplaces.
Prior to joining EBMUD, Edna worked as an environmental health and safety professional in the oil and gas industry in Houston, Texas, and in her home country of Kenya. She says the best way to make the work environment safer is by engaging the people doing the work. “I go out there and listen to them. I like to talk to people. It makes me understand better what challenges they are going through.”
Edna loves working for EBMUD, because everybody has “a great attitude and a team spirit.” She says that her colleagues remind her of her favorite basketball team, the Golden State Warriors, because they prioritize teamwork over a single star player. “The whole team moves together like different parts of a highly functional machine.”
“Respect is really the first thing that we have to give to each other.”
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."
Julia, Manager of Business Continuity
As Manager of Business Continuity, Julia ensures that the District has plans for resuming normal operations and critical business functions as quickly as possible if (and when) disaster strikes.
“As water suppliers, our critical infrastructure supports life. You can live without power but you can’t live without water.”
Julia oversees almost two dozen business continuity plans for the District’s various departments and work units, which are updated and exercised regularly. In addition, Julia works with mutual aid partners, cities and counties to identify shared resources, how to work together in emergencies and determine vulnerabilities. “After a disaster, we may not be able to easily access the resources we need to operate so we need to identify alternatives and have a mitigation plan in place.”
Julia not only focuses on preparing for disasters, she also guides daily operations through changing times. “It is not all doom and gloom. We also ensure there is knowledge retention in case of retirement or employee transition. We look at cross training, documentation, and identifying which parts of our business are mission-critical to ensure water flows and wastewater is treated.”
Julia joined the District 17 years ago as a Laboratory Supervisor in the Wastewater Department. The position of Manager of Business Continuity didn’t even exist until Julia filled the role in 2006, and she has turned it into an award-winning program that is ever-evolving, maturing and continuing to improve.
“There is no template or model for what we do (after emergencies) in the water and wastewater industries. It is a very collaborative effort and everyone has to work together and support each other to make things happen.”
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.”
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.”
Ray, Meter Reader Mechanic
Matching up teamwork with meter work.
He started as a temporary staffer, but his desire to learn new skills and his technical knowledge led him to a full-time career in the water industry. “I heard many good things about EBMUD. I liked the people I worked with and quickly realized how great the morale is,” says Ray. “It’s one of the best companies I’ve worked for!”
Ray’s work locations vary, but the work is consistent. As a Meter Reader Mechanic, Ray reports to the office to review his routes and job orders, then stocks up on the new meters he’ll need and sets out in his truck. He spends half his time reading meters and the other half repairing, installing and maintaining water meters to ensure they are properly recording the amount of water residents and businesses are using (and being billed for). When he’s not manually reading meters, Ray uses a wireless system which reads automated meters as he drives through the neighborhoods served by EBMUD.
The work can be challenging because of the physical nature of the work, combined with weather conditions. “I’m grateful for the support of my team who back me up if needed,” says Ray. “I’m given the time and tools to do my job well – and safely.”
Field staff like Ray are the EBMUD employees that customers interact with the most. “During the drought, customers shared with me the steps they were taking to save water.” Meter Reader Mechanics are aware that customers will be out of water service during meter maintenance, so they prepare and think through the work ahead of time to minimize impacts of that outage. “It’s our job to serve,” says Ray.
“Teamwork helps me get the job done right. It motivates me when my managers take the time to help find good solutions quickly.”