People Behind the Pipes - Process Lead

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Celebrating Water Professionals Appreciation Week

This series highlights the important roles of water industry professionals and local public water agencies in ensuring safe and reliable water, wastewater, and recycled water services 24 hours a day, every day of the year. Learn more about DSRSD's staff and how they got their start in the industry.

Process Lead Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator V - Virgil Sevilla

 Process Lead Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator V Virgil Sevilla checks the aeration basins at the wastewater treatment plant.
Process Lead Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator V Virgil Sevilla checks the aeration basins at the wastewater treatment plant.

1. Describe your job.
The position of Process Lead is like seeing the whole picture of the Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant all the time. I monitor, oversee, and delegate what needs to be done. I request work with our maintenance staff and check laboratory results to make adjustments to the process. The job also requires analyzing what’s next based on historical data, and it depends upon the season. We look for heat waves in the summer when we have to meet demand for producing recycled water, and during wet winter weather, we manage higher flows coming into the plant. It’s a big challenge for us in Operations.

My first priority is to meet our National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit requirement. I am responsible for controlling the treatment process and looking at the big picture of what’s coming in and what’s going out. We don’t want to harm species in the San Francisco Bay. Day to day, you’re looking at different parameters, running reports, and ordering tests that all help you indicate if the treatment plant is functioning well.

Since DSRSD also operates the Livermore Amador Valley Water Management Agency, I also have to be aware how much treated effluent the City of Livermore is pumping. I stay in communication with the East Bay Dischargers Authority to ensure we follow protocols when pumping the treated effluent that is not turned into recycled water to the Bay.

2. What do you like best about your job?
It’s very mobile, and your mind is always active. I like the process of it all because it keeps changing. It’s a challenging job. As Process Lead, I can jump in and do whatever position needs to be filled in that moment. I can be the treatment plant operator, I can be the recycled water plant operator, I attend meetings, coordinate with any construction on site, and communicate with different District departments as well as with outside agencies.

3. How did you get into the wastewater field?
I’ve been with DSRSD for 12 years. I started as a Senior Operator (now Operator III) and eventually became a Process Lead. I moved here from the Philippines as a civil engineer and worked in a Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) and Chlor-alkali (gas chlorine and liquid caustic soda production) processing plant. I also had experience in construction management and knowledge in industrial waste treatment. I saw a flier for an operator position with the City of Tracy where I live, and while I did not end up working there, they gave me the path to become an operator. I took online courses through Sacramento State University and did a Regional Occupational Program in Pleasanton before taking the tests to get certified. I started as an Operator-in-Training after that.

4. What is the biggest challenge of your position?
The biggest challenge is the changing characteristic of the wastewater coming into the plant. You cannot predict the characteristics of the wastewater coming in, but we can analyze based on data. There’s a lot of change—especially on days with a change of weather and flows with different strengths of wastewater coming in, such as on Thanksgiving Day. Also, with more housing being built, that changes the flow too.

Another challenge at the District is the changing staff—we’ve had a lot of retirements. With newer operators coming on board, I want them to learn from me and my experience.  

Virgil Sevilla on the tennis court.
 Virgil Sevilla on the tennis court.

5. What is something unique about yourself?
I live with my wife and dog in Tracy and have three adult children. One son is in the military, my other son works as a forensic analyst, and my daughter is a biochemistry major now working at Sutter Hospital.

I was a big tennis player in my younger years. Now I mostly just watch the big tournaments. Sometimes I still play tennis with my daughter, who was on the varsity team in high school.

6. What is your favorite hobby?
I am an artist—I like to paint, draw, and do graphic arts. It’s my passion. I enjoy painting watercolors and pastels, and I’ll paint scenery and more abstract pieces. I occasionally connect my love for art with my work and will draw diagrams showing the inner workings of our treatment process for people to better understand.