Wastewater Never Takes A Holiday

Union Sanitary District’s plant operators provide 'round-the-clock service while the Tri-Cities celebrate

By Michelle Powell, Union Sanitary District

For most of us, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Days are a getaway from the everyday world – stores and businesses are shuttered as people pause to enjoy the season with friends and loved ones. But there are some companies that never close, and is one of them.

USD’s wastewater treatment plant operates 24/7/365 to serve the Tri-Cities, and that means some of its plant operators are spending their holidays on-site making sure that things are running smoothly. They also stand ready to send assistance for customers who call in with sewer emergencies.

“We do all of the normal daily checks to make sure that our processes are running efficiently,” says Dave Drake of his holiday work routine. “The plant is our first priority.”

The operators monitor flows on computers as wastewater comes in from throughout USD’s service area and makes its way through the plant, test wastewater samples, and make rounds to check on equipment during their twelve-hour shifts.

“We also respond to customer emergencies,” says Tony Lullo. “If a USD customer calls in with a sewer problem, we dispatch Collection Services workers to respond, whether it’s Christmas Day or any other day.  A mechanic and electrician are always on-call as well to assist at the plant or pump stations if necessary.”

Operators and their families make adjustments for holiday celebrations.

“Sometimes I make up for being absent by joining the party in the evening when I get home, and sometimes we celebrate on a different day,” says Dave. “Your relatives get used to you not being home for the usual family times – we all make accommodations.”

The night shift operators have their own ways of adapting holidays.

“We tend to mingle with our families for a while during the day, then leave parties early to get to work,” says Tim Hughes. “Often, my family takes two cars to a gathering so my wife and kids can stay when I leave for my shift. Sometimes even though I’m not scheduled to work, I’m on-call in case of an absence, so I follow the same routine, just in case.”

Whether on-shift or on-call, USD’s employees are always ready to give exceptional service to the community.

“Working the holidays can be a difficult sacrifice at times, because we’re not with our loved ones,” adds Perry Borbeck, “but we all get satisfaction from providing an important service to the public. I never feel like I have to go work, but that I get to go to work.”

Union Sanitary District operates a 30 million gallon per day wastewater treatment facility in Union City and provides wastewater collection, treatment and disposal services to the cities of Fremont, Newark and Union City. The District serves a population of 328,000 and maintains over 779 miles of sewers.  For more information about USD’s Plant Operations, contact David Livingston, Plant Manager, at (510) 477-7560.


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