People Behind the Pipes - 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.

Water/Wastewater Systems Lead Operator - Danny Leonardo

DSRSD 2017 Employee of the Year

 Water/Wastewater Systems Lead Operator Danny Leonardo (right) gives a tour of the District's water system during Water Professionals Appreciation Week in 2017.
Water/Wastewater Systems Lead Operator Danny Leonardo (right) gives a tour of the water system.

1.  Describe your job.
My job consists of scheduling and assigning work for field operators, taking customer complaints, and investigating, scheduling, and making repairs. I coordinate with administrative staff to obtain encroachment permits with the Cities of Dublin and San Ramon and soil inspections with an outside contractor when we are performing work. I interact with customers directly because field work often involves shutting off water temporarily. I schedule our weekly water samples as required by the state, and send them to the District’s lab for testing. I’m responsible for ordering parts needed in the field and ordering chemicals for the water system. We use sodium hypochlorite and ammonia to make chloramine for water treatment, as well as fluoride, as required, for dental health.

I also work with DSRSD’s engineering department, especially when it comes to new construction in the field. With a lot of projects, I’m involved through the whole process—from the start, to weekly construction meetings, through to the end. Recently, I’ve been part of the relocation of our underground sewer lift station and installation of a new water treatment and mixer system into one of our water reservoirs.

As the lead operator, my focus is to improve field operations and make the team better. These days I spend a lot of time in the office, but I still get out in the field to help start projects and make sure other operators have the same expectations and outlook needed to complete the job safely and effectively. We spend time planning and brainstorming to help our crews be as efficient as possible.

2. How did you get into the water industry?
Prior to working for the District, I worked for a contractor that did underground repairs on water and sewer pipelines. I was the “go-to” guy for the District. A DSRSD supervisor encouraged me to sign up for a wastewater treatment ROP (Regional Occupational Programming) class, which I did in 2000. About six months later, the District had a temporary assignment, which eventually led to a full-time position as a Water/Wastewater Systems Operator. In 2017 when the District had a vacancy, I also served as acting Chief Plant Operator, who makes final decisions regarding the water distribution system.

I’ve gotten state certifications through an at-home (now online) program through Sacramento State University. My education and experience helped me to become lead operator in May 2017. Certifications I hold are:

•    State of California State Water Resources Control Board – Water Distribution Grade D4
•    State of California State Water Resources Control Board – Water Treatment Grade T2
•    California Water Environment Association – Collection System Maintenance Grade 2
•    American Water Works Association – Cross Connection Control Program Specialist

3. What do you like best about your job?
I enjoy coming to work because of the responsibility I feel. People rely on me to give my best service and to provide the safest drinking water possible. I take pride in coordinating our field work so no one has to be without water for a very long time. Within DSRSD, there is great support from other departments. I enjoy the people, and I enjoy the challenge. It’s always changing, and it’s never boring.

4. What is the biggest challenge of your job?
I like to stay ahead of the game. Whatever happens in the field, the public can see our crews at work. The challenging part is when there are water main breaks or customer service complaints about water quality, it’s not something we can put off. You never know how people are going to react to each situation. We try to be responsive and try to resolve the issue as professionally and as quickly as we can.

5. What is something unique about yourself?
I’m very mechanically inclined. I have a full-blown shop at my house to work on building cars, rebuilding motors, and fabrication. My wife calls me a MacGyver, a guy who can kind of do anything—welding, plumbing, mechanics—you name it.

6. What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
I love spending time with my family—I have a 15-year-old son and a 13-year-old daughter. I enjoy riding motorcycles. Mexican food is my favorite, the spices are great. I do some cooking at home too—any meat that has to be cooked, my wife turns it over to me. I listen to country music and classic rock. And I enjoy going camping with the family, we call it “decompress” time. We will go by the coast or up in the foothills, I love getting away where there aren’t many people around. It’s a chance to refresh and reset.