Nick Hansen, Senior Plant Operator
Central Contra Costa Sanitary District
Founder of RecycledH2o.net
How did you get involved in the water industry?
I graduated college with a BA in Communication and found my way into wastewater after a brief stint working in the tech field. As a techie I’m always interested in the “behind-the-scenes” aspect and being an operator makes that passion a reality.
Is there something you think is surprising most people don’t know about becoming an operator that you would like to share?
Operations at a Water Resource Recovery Facility (or a wastewater treatment plant, whichever you prefer) allows you to work with equipment most people will never see in their lifetime. For instance, I work at a facility that incinerates sludge. This is one of last treatment plants in the state that still operates a furnace.
Any other advice for new people entering our profession on how to get ahead and be successful?
Motivation and perseverance is what you need to stay educated, stay open to new concepts and embrace the future. Learn what others have done in the past and utilize that information to better your operational skills in the future. If you find the industry lacking in an area – do something to change that. I did by creating the blog RecycledH2o.net.
What is RecycledH2o.net?
Residential Recycled Water Fill Stations started with Dublin San Ramon Services District having their water allotment from the state threatened to be cut to 5%. While they were trying to figure out what to do, Operations Manager Dan Gallagher brought up the idea about letting people get recycled water for watering their yard. The idea took off. I saw an article about it on the Contra Costa Times and mentioned it in our Employee Suggestion Program. My employer had seen the same article and I was asked to join the Recycled Water Fill Station Committee (it met once). The fill station opened, and it had little traffic. It was also the end of October and it was raining. I purchased a tank for my truck, a 150 gallon bladder and had people asking about how I get water home and unload it. I did some searching around online and found nothing about it. So I started a blog and wrote “Getting Started With Recycled H2O.” There I talked about the process I went through to haul water. It took off. Next I wrote “Hand Watering with Recycled H2O.”
I actively watch #RecycledWater and #CADrought on Twitter. I’ve learned so much about Twitter (didn’t use it much prior to this blog), I’ve built relationships with people in San Diego, Antioch, Brentwood and Healdsburg and un-officially partner on shared messages. I’ve been reaching out to agencies that run fill stations asking for “Fill Station Stats.” Most agencies have been very outgoing and love the blog. They all to want help anyway that they can. Some agencies have asked me to write topic specific posts for them, which I had fun doing.
My big take-away with all of this – recycled water was barely on the map until California had 25% mandatory water use cutbacks. People didn’t want to let their lawns/landscaping die. People with time and the means to haul recycled water have found a way to make it work. Residents in California had no idea where their wastewater goes after they use it once. Now they’re beginning to understand and this new engagement has been the biggest this industry has seen since the advent of the Clean Water Act. I feel very honored to have taken a small idea and run with it. I totally enjoy writing the blog, I strive for 2 articles a week. Something industry related on Wednesday (#RecycledWaterWednesday) and something fun on Fridays – Fill Station Stats, articles about residents cutting their water usage 76% by hauling recycled water, or asking the question – how does <insert professional sports team> water their field while we’re being told to let ours go brown?
Where do you see the blog going?
I’d like to get more daily visitors reading articles about our industry. I’m trying hard to get in front of non-industry people – the general public. I encourage industry people to share with their friends. Social media is amazing for free advertising. If I can figure out a way to make as much as I do now and be able to focus all my working time on the blog – that would be a perfect goal. I have a degree in Communication with a minor in Technology; Operations is fun, don’t get me wrong, but we have a message that the entire world needs to see.