People Behind the Pipes - Wastewater

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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.

Wastewater Treatment Plant Operations Supervisor - Levi Fuller

 Wastewater Treatment Plant Operations Supervisor Levi Fuller stands in the lab at the plant speaking to a group.
Wastewater Treatment Plant Operations Supervisor Levi Fuller gives a tour to the Citizens Water Academy.

1. Describe your job.
I supervise 11 staff who operate a 17 million gallon/day wastewater treatment plant, a 12.3 million gallon/day recycled water treatment plant, and a 41.2 million gallon/day secondary treated effluent disposal facility 24/7. I meet with the operators daily to talk about the treatment processes and status of these systems, and then we brainstorm and troubleshoot any problems that the operators have observed.

2. How did you get into the water industry?
My first experience with treating wastewater was in the Navy on the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier. One of my duties was at a desalinization plant. The desalinization plant on the ship could produce 400,000 gallons a day of freshwater from sea water for a crew of 5,000 sailors. I then worked for a company that did environmental cleanup – bioremediation of contaminated groundwater and contaminated soil, mainly from gas stations with leaking tanks. That’s where I was introduced to the idea of using microorganisms to clean up the environment, and that naturally led to me working with wastewater treatment plants because that’s what wastewater treatment plants do. The intrigue with doing that is how I eventually applied for a job with the City of Pinole, and that’s how I got into the wastewater treatment business.

3. What do you like best about your job?
Problem solving. We have a wastewater treatment plant that is a biological system, and that biology responds to whatever comes into the treatment plant. I enjoy troubleshooting and developing solutions to adverse reactions, equipment failures, and other problems. I like the environmental protection part of the job, understanding that we play a key role in resource recovery, recycling of wastewater, reclaiming biogas from our digesters, and using that as a fuel source.

4. What is the biggest challenge of your job?
The people challenges are that you have a 365/24/7 staff that you have to manage, and so obviously every moment of the day, there’s someone at work who’s working for you. You never feel like you can take a break. They’re pretty good about managing most issues that come up, but it’s not like other jobs. I answer my phone 24/7.

5. How do people react when they find out what you do?
It’s changed. I think 30 years ago, there was kind of a “yuck” factor to it. But I think now people are more educated and understand the importance of protecting the environment. They’re more intrigued by it.

6. What is something about you that most people might not know?
I love to cook. I’m pretty good with barbecue. I grew up in the south, so I cook a lot of soul food. I do most of the cooking in my house. My specialties are barbecue pork ribs, chicken burritos, and sweet potato pie.