Manuel Zapien never stops learning.
He discovered water science while studying geology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He took biology, chemistry, and physics classes. Later he applied for a laboratory job at Ventura County. He learned from those he worked with there, and he continues to study laboratory procedures in preparation for future requirements.
“I never stop learning,” he says. “There are new challenges every day.”
Zapien has 20 years of laboratory experience. He works with a laboratory staff of four others and is responsible for training new people in all aspects of laboratory testing—wet chemistry, biology, instrumentation, solids, and more.
“Manuel is an exceptional analyst,” says his supervisor, Monica Martin. “He is consistent in his work and has strong attention to detail.
“He does not just run samples day in and day out. He knows where each sample comes from. He knows what each result should be and can identify when something is not working right: whether it be out in the plant process or with lab instrumentation.”
“I’m aware of what’s going on in the system,” Zapien says. “We provide information for operations. It’s important to tell them what’s going on, and how they’re doing.”
Zapien’s passion for training and knowledge helps others, as well. “This past year he passed his Grade I analysis test, and by doing so he encouraged others in the laboratory to do the same, resulting in all laboratory staff obtaining CWEA certification,” says Martin.
He’s not finished acquiring new information and skills. “The city is planning for the future,” he says. “The next step will be to treat wastewater such that it can be reused for drinking water. There will be lots of analyses for metals, organics, and others. I will take classes in these areas so I can be prepared when the time comes.”
He adds, “It’s rewarding to know that I am part of the team that both helps Ventura keep drinking water safe for our citizens and contributes to a cleaner environment.”