Congratulations to the 2020 CWEA San Francisco Bay Section Award Winners!

Collection System of the Year – Small:
Stege Sanitary District

The Stege Sanitary District is located on the northeast shore of the San Francisco Bay Area. The District was originally formed in 1913 to provide public health services to a then lightly populated area of southwest Contra Costa County. The District provides sanitary sewer services to Kensington, El Cerrito, and a portion of the Richmond Annex in Richmond.

The District currently operates and maintains 148 miles of sanitary sewers and two pumping stations serving over 35,000 residents residing within the District boundaries.

Stege Sanitary District has a long history of awards and honors due to its commitment to service and excellence, including seven previous CWEA collection system of the year awards.

Safety Plant of the Year – Large:
East Bay Municipal Utility District

EBMUD’s Main Wastewater Treatment Plant, which is located at the base of the eastern span of the Bay Bridge, provides an invaluable public service for a community of over 685,000 by protecting the San Francisco Bay. EBMUD service area is comprised of Alameda, Albany, Berkeley, Emeryville, Oakland, Piedmont, and the Stege Sanitary District, which is comprised of El Cerrito, Kensington, and a portion of Richmond known as the Richmond Annex. EBMUD treats about 60MGD of wastewater on average in dry weather and ~415MGD during peak wet weather.

At EBMUD, the safety and health of employees, contractors, and the community is front and center. The goal of EBMUD’s Safety Program is to establish an interactive safety performance that defines policies and procedures as well as roles and responsibilities of each party involved. Through thoughtful and interactive safety programs, EBMUD endeavor to ensure that every employee and contractor goes back to their families healthy and whole.

Electrical and Instrumentation of the Year:
David Peel, City of Pacifica

David has worked for the City of Pacifica at the Calera Creek Water Recycling Plant for just over 15 years. Currently, he is the lead instrumentation technician and serves as acting assistant superintendent. David is also a Grade III operator and a Teamsters Union 856 shop steward. His duties include troubleshooting, repairs and retrofits, basic programming, and training plant employees. David has broad knowledge of programmable logic controllers (PLCs), Wonderware software, pumps, motor controls, variable frequency drives (VFDs), reduced-voltage soft starter (RVSSs), process measuring devices, and plant machinery. He is also an accomplished welder, frequently fabricating, modifying, and repairing plant and collections equipment.

Calera Creek Water Recycling Plant is a fully automated wastewater treatment plant in the Bay Area. The plant relies mostly on Allen Bradley PLCs and a Wonderware supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system for automation.

David’s accomplishments include a complete retrofit, testing, and commissioning of the plant’s two Centrisys centrifuges, retrofit and standardization of almost all plant RVSSs and VFDs, retrofit of all control valve actuators for four digesters, major structural welding in each of plant’s five 1.3-million-gallon sequencing batch reactors, and working with and assisting engineers with PLC upgrades.

Prior to Pacifica, David spent 20 years as an FAA licensed aircraft mechanic for United Airlines. He was an engine specialist whose crew travelled around the world to repair aircraft. He was taxi and high-power run qualified on Boeing 727, 737, 757, 767, and Airbus 319, 320 aircraft.

Mechanical Technician of the Year:
John Abdilla, Ironhouse Sanitary District

Ironhouse Sanitary District’s John Abdilla has more than 20 years of experience working in the mechanical and machinist industry. He began his career in 1998 working on 18-Wheelers before moving on to be a machinist for the City of San Francisco’s Muni system in 2005. In 2010, Abdilla moved on to begin a hotrod fabrication shop. It wasn’t until 2014 that he started working on his OIT and pursuing his wastewater certification.

After receiving his wastewater certification in 2015, Abdilla was hired by Ironhouse Sanitary District as the plant’s sole maintenance staff member. Since starting at the District, Abdilla has managed multiple maintenances and parts contracts and managed and completed numerous plant maintenance upgrades with contractors. In 2019 the District’s Water Recycling Facility began working on a Capital Campaign project that included several upgrades throughout the plant. Abdilla has been working closely with contractors on several concurrent projects, including a drum screen rebuild, mechanical screen rebuild, adding hot water heater and plumbing systems into the existing mechanical and drum screen spray systems, as well as adding two compactors to the helix area.

As a certified wastewater professional, Abdilla has the ability to run facility operations and test equipment without taking the time of one of the facility operators at the plant. This has been especially helpful during the COVID-19 crisis when the District is having to deal with running smaller crews.

Collection System Person of the Year:
Leon Laucirica, Ironhouse Sanitary District

Leon Laucirica began his career at Ironhouse Sanitary District at the age of 19. In his 15-year career with the District, he has taken advantage of the opportunities available to expand his knowledge of wastewater collections, fabrication/welding, underground construction, and electrical work. Leon is driven to be successful, and as a journey-level employee, he has become a mentor to the District’s new hires.

When not working on regular sewer collection maintenance and upgrading outdated electrical components, Leon evaluates the condition of the District’s pumps, wet-wells, plumbing, and all other components associated with the District’s sewage lift stations.

“Leon’s ability to assess infrastructure and prioritize preventative maintenance prior to reactive or corrective maintenance is a great value to the District,” said Louis Solana, Ironhouse Sanitary District Collection Superintendent.

In an effort to further his career goals, Leon went back to school and in May of 2018 received his AS degree in management and supervision. At home, he enjoys the outdoors and camping with his wife, Stacy, and his children, Liam and Stella.

Research Achievement of the Year:
R2 Blended Sludge Screening and Grit Removal Pilot, East Bay Municipal Utility District

Blended sludge screening and grit removal pilot plant (screen on left, cyclone-classifier on right)

East Bay Municipal Utility District collaborated with Brown and Caldwell and Monterey Mechanical to procure, construct, and operate pilot-scale fats, oils, and grease (FOG) and blended sludge degritting and screening processes at its Main Wastewater Treatment Plant (MWWTP). The objective of the pilot test was to assess feasibility and establish design criteria for candidate technologies that can be used to protect downstream anaerobic digestion and dewatering processes from damage and fouling caused by rocks, grit, and debris.

EBMUD generates renewable energy at the MWWTP through anaerobic digestion of thickened blended sludge that is comprised of primary sludge and waste activated sludge as well as trucked FOG and other organic materials. The high amount of grit, rocks, and unwanted debris in the trucked material causes grit accumulation in the digesters, damages pumps and dewatering equipment, and plugs piping. Pump maintenance costs alone can reach $2M annually.

The pilot cyclone-classifier demonstrated 95% removal of grit and rocks 1/16th-inch in size and larger with or without prescreening. Additionally, the cyclone-classifier had low plant water demand (3% dilution), low odor potential, and produced relatively clean grit with low volatile organic solids. An extended pilot trial is now underway with the cyclone-classifier to examine its performance in long-term operation.

Laboratory Person of the Year:
Melissa Lash, East Bay Municipal Utility District

Melissa Lash has been the Research Microbiologist with East Bay Municipal Utility District since 2015, where she is responsible for research and development of new laboratory methods in the Biology Section, and troubleshooting and optimization of existing methods. Melissa Lash earned a Master of Science in Environmental Biology from University of Alberta on Edmonton, Canada, and has worked in the fields of public water and wastewater microbiology since 2013.

Community Engagement and Outreach Person of the Year:
James Hake, East Bay Municipal Utility District

James Hake is a professional civil engineer and certified project manager with nearly five years of experience working in the water resources industry at a utility and as a consultant. He holds a Master’s in Environmental Engineering & Science from Stanford University and a Bachelor’s in Chemical Engineering from UC Berkeley. He is currently a wastewater engineer for the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD), where he works on a variety of interdisciplinary projects involving strategic planning and communications, project management, and community outreach. When in-person tours of EBMUD’s Main Wastewater Treatment Plant were cancelled due to the pandemic, he quickly mobilized to develop a virtual tour with engaging graphics, photos, and visual demonstrations. The virtual tour format has been highly successful and nearly tripled annual outreach in 2020, with attendees tuning in from as far away as Australia and Mongolia. To further enhance outreach, the original virtual tour was adapted for a variety of audiences such as young schoolchildren and trade schools and was translated into Spanish and Chinese.

Outstanding Young Professional of the Year:
Roya Yousefelahiyeh, Black & Veatch

Roya is a Project Engineer at Black & Veatch in Walnut Creek, CA. She holds a Master’s Degree in Environmental Engineering from North Carolina State University. She is passionate about water reuse, and since joining the industry in 2014, has worked on the planning, design, and construction for several wastewater treatment plants, recycled water treatment plants, and pump stations. She is currently the treasurer and board member of CWEA San Francisco Bay Section and active in her local CWEA section. Outside of work, she loves hiking, traveling, hanging out and playing board games with friends, and reading.

Supervisor of the Year:
Jason Mitchell, East Bay Municipal Utility District

Jason Mitchell has worked for the East Bay Municipal Utility District as Laboratory Supervisor of Inorganic Chemistry for 6 years. In 22 years of utility laboratory work for two bay area agencies, he has experience in water and wastewater regulations, purchasing, validation and certification of analytical instruments and more than 30 staff recruitments. Currently he supervises a team of eight technicians and chemists to produce defensible data for EBMUD in wet chemistry and metals. Along with the enjoyment of working with a diverse and professionally motivated team, Jason is fulfilled by service to the community of the east bay that ensures protection of public health and the environment.

Community Engagement and Outreach Project of the Year:
Virtual Plant Tour, Central Contra Costa Sanitary District

During the COVID-19 pandemic, all of Central San’s public tours and events have been suspended. Yet, the need to keep the community engaged, connected, and informed remains as crucial as ever. The solution? Central San created a Virtual Treatment Plant Tour, featuring interactive 360-degree photos and an audio overview of each stage of the wastewater treatment process. The self-guided tour offers customers an immersive, behind-the-scenes look at how dirty water is made clean again—all from the safety and comfort of home.

Along with developing the tour content, over the past year Central San has hosted numerous guided virtual tours, Q&A sessions, and hands-on learning activities with students, customers, community groups, and agency partners. These online events give participants a chance to learn more about the treatment process, ask questions, and discover how they can help protect their sewer system and environment.

Al Ditman Professional Service Award:
Tony Park, Lee + Ro

Tony Park is a California-registered professional civil engineer with 28 years of experience in water resources and treatment of water and wastewater. He is a vice president at LEE + RO, responsible for leading the Northern California regional operations with offices in Walnut Creek and Sacramento. Tony oversees business expansion, projects and client relations, while also providing team direction, goal setting and career development. Reporting to the president, Tony is an integral part of the senior management team.

Tony is also a skipper who enjoys playing golf and tennis. He received his B.S. degree in Civil Engineering from UC Berkeley in 1992 and, while working full-time, received his M.S. degree in Engineering from San Francisco State University. He has continuously served 15 years as a member of the Professional Development Committee for the San Francisco Bay Section of the California Water Environment Association including a committee chair position in 2012-2013.

Andy Stamatelos Service Award:
Gary Warren, East Bay Municipal Utility District

Gary Warren is a Senior Civil Engineer for the East Bay Municipal Utility District, supervising their Wastewater Department’s Design Section. Gary has over 30 years of experience in the industry. Before working for the District, he also worked for CH2M HILL (now Jacobs) and Metcalf & Eddy (now AECOM). He is a past president of the SFBS and served many years on their Professional Development Committee. He is currently on CWEA’s state board and very involved in CWEA’s Engineering and Research and Annual Conference Committees. He strongly supports getting involved with CWEA, stating “It’s a great organization for education, training and networking, with great people!”

Special Service Award:
Linda Leong, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission

Ms. Linda Leong, PE, has been employed by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, Wastewater Enterprise, for more than twenty-five years and works to improve the quality of life for San Francisco residents, workers, and visitors by providing customers with high-quality, efficient and reliable sewer services. She has an M.S. in Environmental Engineering, a B.S. in Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, and her work experience in environmental engineering includes working on water and wastewater treatment studies, planning, design, and construction. She is registered as a Civil Engineer in California and, since April 2006, has served on the NFPA Technical Committee on Wastewater Treatment Plants, which provides input to and oversight of NFPA 820 – Standard for Fire Protection in Wastewater Treatment and Collection Facilities. Linda has been an active member of CWEA, SF Bay Section, Professional Development Committee since 2000. Most recently, she has helped develop the Education Programs for CWEA’s virtual conferences, AC20 and AC21.

Committee Chairs

We appreciate the hard work of SFBS’s committee chairs:

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