People Behind the Pipes - Water/Wastewater Systems Operations & Maintenance Supervisor

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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 Operations & Maintenance Supervisor--Dan Martin

 Water/Wastewater Systems Operations & Maintenance Supervisor Dan Martin uses a computer to look at the SCADA system.
Dan Martin, Water/Wastewater Systems Operations & Maintenance Supervisor checks the SCADA system that allows operators to monitor and control pumps, reservoirs, and more.

1. Describe your job.
My core function is that I am the final regulatory compliance authority on DSRSD’s potable drinking water distribution, recycled irrigation water distribution, and sanitary sewer collections systems. It’s my job to ensure our water meets or exceeds all state and federal regulatory requirements to satisfy safe drinking water standards.  There are a lot of folks at the District who have an important role in this process, but ultimately I’m responsible for the end product. I am relied upon to be the subject matter expert when it comes to the safest, fastest, and most economical way to maintain and operate all of those systems.

As the District service area grows, so do our responsibilities to maintain it. That means making sure we have all the resources we need at the times and places we need them. That naturally includes more staffing, more equipment, more facilities, and all the budgeting and forecasting that goes along with that.

On a typical day, I’m interacting with all the other DSRSD divisions that tie in to what Field Operations does. I have worked to increase that communication and understanding since joining the District in March 2018, and I think we’ve made some great improvements. I also do a fair amount of interagency interaction. Here in the Tri-Valley, we’re really close to our neighbors, not only in the services we provide but in the challenges we face. We cooperate with neighboring retailer agencies and with our water wholesaler, Zone 7 Water Agency. Any changes we make in our system can directly affect Zone 7 and sometimes our neighbors too.

Our work in Field Operations never stops—people are always using water, and when they are done with it, they send it down the wastewater pipes to us. We’re constantly watching demand and making adjustments to the system in addition to examining the best way to operate our system to meet the standards we have set. Our Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition computer system allows us to remotely monitor and control pump stations, reservoirs, turnouts, and sewer facilities.

2. What do you like best about your job?
One of the best parts of the job is that the support is there to do the things I’ve been brought here to do. We’ve been asked to do a lot, but we have also been provided with the resources required to make improvements a reality instead of just another good idea that never gets done.

In addition, here at the District everyone is really good at what they do. There’s almost always a subject matter expert on any virtually any topic, whether it’s in public outreach, engineering, or human resources. When we need that piece of expertise to make improvements, I don’t just have to figure it out all on my own. People are able to really focus on the key functions they are here to do so I don’t have to keep a perpetual focus on everything, and that makes this a great team to be on.

3. How did you get into this field?
It started when my neighbor, who was a water operator with the City of Pleasanton, suggested I try a summer internship for high school students. It was the opportunity to work outside, and it paid better than most summer jobs. That was my first introduction to the industry, and while it’s very different now, I could see the potential in the future.

Later, while running the plumbing, kitchen, and bath department at Home Depot, I was taking correspondence classes to earn certifications for water distribution, sewer collections, and other subcategories such as cross-connection. I also worked for several years doing general contracting work including kitchen and bath remodels. Once the City of Pleasanton had an opening, I had to make a decision if I wanted to stick with the private sector or enter the public water industry. I made a decision early on that if I was going to make this change to public municipal service, I was going to take it as far as I could. I worked for Pleasanton for 24 years, including 4 years as an intern. You first learn how everything works by fixing and maintaining it with your own hands, and then you figure out better ways to run things from a supervisory perspective, which led to more responsibility and new opportunities.

4. What is the biggest challenge of your position?
One of the biggest challenges is making sure Field Operations is integrated appropriately at all division levels in the District. There wasn’t always an awareness of how Field Operations functions and interacts with everything else at the District. For example, getting involved earlier in the planning and decision making process is important because Field Operations is the ultimately the final “forever” owner of everything outside the Regional Wastewater Treatment Facility. Being patient but persistent in the process of improving things can be tricky but is ultimately for the better of everyone at the District.

5. What is something unique about yourself?
The thing that helps me disconnect and recharge is getting up to the mountains. Just the smell of pine trees is hugely beneficial. A good portion of my free time is spent at my place in Arnold in the Sierra foothills and being out of the constant hum of the Tri-Valley. I love the quiet of the mountains and will go hiking, fishing, and off-roading. When I was really small, my family had a cabin in Tahoe and would go snow skiing virtually every weekend. That is probably what planted the seed of fun and pine trees and getting away.

6. What are some of your favorite sports?
I enjoy anything with football and baseball. I’m a fan of the Oakland A’s and San Francisco 49ers. It’s not easy being an A’s fan—it may not always be satisfying, but they almost always make it interesting. I haven’t been to the new Levi’s Stadium yet. I had tickets once, and naturally that’s when an unavoidable work emergency came up. Those are the times when it’s not so fun being the boss.