It was Christmas Eve at the Harry Tracy Water Treatment Plant. Operators Mike Evans and Matt Woodward were there through the night until mid-morning Christmas Day—and again on New Year’s Eve. As on any nighttime watch (this team takes four or five a week), they continually monitored the different treatment processes that go on throughout the plant, made the fine adjustments that are frequently needed, and checked the water quality at regular times in the lab next door.
At least two operators are always on duty at Harry Tracy— including nights and holidays. And even on a quiet holiday night, the high-pitched beeps routinely come in every few minutes. Those are notifications about levels and conditions throughout the plant—ozone residual, the pH level, turbidity, and any number of others. A key part of the job is knowing what action to take, says Mike, the senior operator on the team. A 13-year Harry Tracy veteran, he is trained to recognize and deal with the many different issues that could come up, including an earthquake or other natural disaster. Even heavy rains with the potential for mud slides can affect our water quality, and a contingency plan is always in place.
In short, Mike says, “You have to be ready for anything. It’s all about protecting the public with safe water 24/7.”
Mike’s teammate “Woody” Woodworth is just as committed. “In the water industry, the customer is always the highest priority,” says Woody, now in his second year at Harry Tracy after seven with a smaller utility, the small North Coast County Water District in his home town of Pacifica. The long hours of trenching, manning heavy equipment, and other pipeline repair work could be “grueling,” he remembers, “but we had to get the job done for all those customers. “
At Harry Tracy, the long 12-hour shifts have their own challenge, but the junior teammate says he looks forward to every one of them. The customer is still the top priority, and Woody calls his present job the best he’s ever had.