People Behind the Pipes - Recycled Water

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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.

Clean Water Programs Specialist - Stefanie Olson

WateReuse California 2015 Staff Person of the Year

 Stefanie Olson receives the WateReuse Staff Of The Year award.
Clean Water Programs Specialist Stefanie Olson receives the WateReuse California 2015 Staff Person of the Year.

1.  Describe your job.
I administer the recycled water regulatory program for the District by helping new users connect, updating regulatory documents, corresponding with the State Water Resources Control Board, regulating existing users, and overseeing the backflow prevention cross-connection program. I am involved with the District’s water conservation program, approving and issuing rebates, conducting water conservation audits, and performing water management data analysis.

I also implement the Pollution Prevention Program, educating the public about ways to minimize pollutants: not disposing of fats, oil, and grease down the drain; not flushing baby wipes or Clorox wipes; and not disposing of pharmaceuticals down the sink or toilet. I’m also responsible for regulating dental offices to ensure dental amalgam is not directly discharged into the sanitary sewer system. Dental amalgam contains elemental mercury. I also review and comment on pending legislation.

In the past I’ve also taught a sewer science class to high school students and demonstrated our watershed diorama to younger students, teaching them the difference between the sanitary sewer drains and storm drains. During the extreme drought of 2014 and 2015, I helped DSRSD get approval to open the Residential Recycled Water Fill Station, the first in the state. The state eventually used my application as an example for other agencies looking to offer recycled water to residents. There was a fill station at our plant in Pleasanton, and I supervised the fill station that was set up in Dublin. It closed once the extreme drought ended.

2. How did you get into the water industry?
I received my environmental studies degree from California State University, Hayward (now East Bay), and one of the requirements was an internship. I worked for DSRSD as an intern for a year in the industrial waste department at the Regional Wastewater Treatment Facility. Following my internship, I was an industrial compliance (now called environmental compliance) inspector for the City of Livermore. When a pollution prevention inspector position opened with DSRSD, I came back to the District in 2002. A few years later, the position of Clean Water Programs Specialist was created, and I’ve been doing the job since.

3. What do you like best about your job?
I like how it’s transitioned and changed over the years. Now I’m getting to learn about monitoring legislation, making comments, and being more involved in that world. I’m learning more about water conservation, and I’m currently co-chair of the Recycled Water Committee for Bay Area Clean Water Agencies.

When recycled water came along, it became huge. I didn’t realize then how big it was going to be. It’s important to make sure you don’t cross connect with drinking water lines. We’re trying to protect public health. My job is to educate and protect the public as much as I can. Recycled water helps us use less drinking water, though we are going to have to continue to comply with new state regulations.

4. What is the biggest challenge of your job?
Making sure programs stay in compliance with everything. The challenge right now is waiting to see what the state is going to draft regarding the new water conservation mandates. When new laws are passed, we have to jump on it. Water management is going to be big—planning for droughts.

5. What is something unique about yourself?
I used to do high school rodeo where I would compete in barrel racing, breakaway roping, and goat tying. I just recently sold my rope horse, Denny. We would compete in team roping events. Growing up in Iowa, I did pole bending and other gymkhana events with speed pattern racing and timed events riding horses. Now my 8- and 10-year-old daughters are in 4-H, and are planning to show pigs at the Alameda County Fair next year.

6. What are your favorite vacation spots?
My husband (who is a Water/Wastewater Systems Operator IV-On Call for DSRSD) and I go to the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas every December. I like to peruse the Cowboy Christmas vendors. I also enjoy taking the family to Lake Tahoe and going on walks around the lake.