Public Works Week - Dan Pettinichio

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People Behind the Pipes

This Q&A profile is part of Public Works Week 2019, honoring professionals in DSRSD's Field Operations Division who help ensure safe and reliable water, wastewater collection, and recycled water services 24 hours a day, every day.

Water/Wastewater Systems Operator IV-On Call - Dan Pettinichio

 Water/Wastewater Systems Operator IV-On Call Dan Pettinichio checks Water Quality Analyzers.
Water/Wastewater Systems Operator IV-On Call Dan Pettinicihio checks water quality analyzers at a pump station. The analyzers check chlorine, fluoride, temperature, turbidity, pH, and conductivity.

1. Tell us about your job.
In Field Operations, we operate and maintain the water distribution system, the wastewater collection system, and the recycled water system. It’s a lot of troubleshooting and problem solving—we do everything at DSRSD. I check pump stations and reservoirs, work with chemicals for water treatment, complete weekly and daily water quality sampling, flush water lines for water quality, install water meters, oversee water main repairs, and respond to sanitary sewer overflows. There are day-to-day tasks such as checking sites throughout our system, service orders, and jetting sewer lines to clean them out as part of preventative maintenance. We also deal with unexpected things that must take priority in the moment. Everything we do must be in compliance with the state’s regulations so keeping up with those rules and regulations is a job in itself.  

We’re also front-facing staff for the District. When water or sewer service has been affected, we’ll reach out to the public by knocking on doors and letting them know what’s happening on their street. Neighbors will check in with us, and our crews will let them see what we’re working on from a safe distance. Educating the public and making a good first impression of the District is a huge part of being in the field.  

2. What do you like best about your job?
I have a good time with the people I work with. I get to work outside, and I have a lot of fun doing it. The position presents us with challenges too, such as water main breaks, sanitary sewer overflows, and recycled water leaks. It’s a good learning experience when responding to these events and being involved in the regulatory reporting process. The environmental part of the reporting process is huge. We have to protect the San Francisco Bay and waterways.

3. How did you get into the industry?
My dad, John Pettinichio, worked in the industry with the City of San Leandro and actually retired from DSRSD. My brother also works in wastewater treatment for the City of San Jose. I’ve been with the District less than a year, but I worked for the City of Pleasanton as an operator for 12 years. I actually started my career with DSRSD 16 years ago when I did a wastewater treatment program through Tri-Valley ROP (Regional Occupational Program). The instructor was also the Field Operations supervisor for DSRSD at the time, and offered me an opportunity to become a temp for the department installing water meters.

Field experience is huge for this industry, but I also have taken online courses for operators through California State University, Sacramento. I have earned certifications in areas such as water distribution, water treatment, sewer collections, backflow prevention, and cross-connection.

4. What are the biggest challenges of your job?
The District is unique from some other agencies in that we get to learn a bigger range on the job. I like learning as much as I can, and I really enjoy coming to work here.

One of the challenges is learning how to use the SCADA system (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition), a computer system that helps us operate and monitor our water distribution and recycled water systems. SCADA allows us to have another tool to keep track of how the system is running. We’re trying to get the highest water quality to all zones throughout the system, and each pump station can affect other stations. I have to know the characteristics of each station, like pump capacity and pressure, and understand how those stations are going to perform. There are a lot of moving parts with our SCADA system that need to be adjusted daily.  

 I’m training to be an on-call operator. As an on-call operator you are responsible for the SCADA system after hours, so you may have to respond to alarms at certain sites that may not be running correctly. At this point you must put your thinking cap on no matter what time it is and try to figure out what the issue is. Sometimes it’s an easy fix, and other times you may have to rely on another DSRSD division such as Electrical or Mechanical to help figure out the issue. This also goes for the water distribution, recycled water, and sewer collection systems. If a water main breaks, the on-call operator is the first respondent for the District. We are also the first on site if a customer has a broken water line inside their house and needs their water shut off. With the on-call position there is a lot of responsibility for after-hours issues, and the challenge can be something small or something big. We’ll always be the first on site trying to figure out the problem.

5. What is something unique about you?
I’m a big fan of watching the University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish. I’ve been out there (to Indiana) a few times to see them play. I’m part Irish, and they were always on TV when I was growing up, so I naturally became a fan.

6. What are your favorite hobbies?
I enjoy running, hiking, and being active. I run before work most days. Hiking in Tahoe is definitely a fun time, or anywhere in the foothills. Locally, I enjoy Pleasanton Ridge and Del Valle regional parks. My wife and I enjoying walking in Muir Woods or along Poplar Beach. We’re expecting our first child, a son, in June.