Category Archives: General

A Day in the Life: Environmental Program Inspector

Charlotte Water communication intern, Jake Dube is on a quest to learn every different job at Charlotte Water. This past week he spent a day with Environmental Program Inspector: Shannon Bryne. Come and join him and his camera as they adventured along with Shannon for the day.

Shannon starts out her day in the office at 8:00 am. I meet her at her desk, we gather all the gear and equipment we need for the day and head out to the truck. Shannon turns the keys. The truck engine roars, and we are on the way.

Shannon typically completes five to seven inspections a day. What does an Environmental Program Inspector inspect exactly? why, grease traps of course! Every food service provider is required to have a grease trap. This ensures grease does not get into the wastewater pipes and cause an overflow. Shannon (and others on her team) makes sure these traps are functioning properly.

We pull up to the first inspection and walk into the store. Shannon introduces herself and asks to meet with the manager. The manager comes to the front and invites us to follow her back to the office. Shannon explains why she is visiting and asks to see the most recent grease trap cleaning receipt.

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Patiently Waiting

Shannon tells me about all the different rules that must be followed by the businesses. Determining how often the trap needs to be cleaned depends on the size of the trap. 1,000 gallons or more means they require quarterly cleaning. Some restaurants use more oils than others, and in those cases, Charlotte Water may suggest more frequent cleanings to maintain a well-functioning grease trap.

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Old Receipt

The manager eventually finds a receipt, though it is from a few years back. Since she does not receive the most recent receipt, she happily gives the manager her card and informs the manager to contact her once she gathers the proper the information. She takes notes on her tablet and heads outside to check the trap!

The first things first… create a safe work environment. Shannon pulls out the cones and places them around the work area.

Next, She uses a tool that scans air levels inside the trap (this is so Shannon does not breathe in dangerous gases). She places it in the manhole and after a moment it beeps, signifying the safe workspace. She pries off the manhole covers and takes a look inside.

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Testing the manhole

She gestures me over to come and look. Shannon points out the top layer of grease. If a trap is cleaned often, the outlet will just look like dirty water. Sometimes, a hard layer of grease can form on top. Based on her initial analysis, she says this needs to be checked by the Sludge Judge; one of her many tools for inspections. She heads to the back of the truck and grabs the tool.

Sludge Judge

The Sludge Judge is a clear tube that Shannon sticks down into grease traps. You trap the grease and examine it.

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Judging the trap

Shannon examines the levels for a few moments and says this trap passes the examination. She releases the cap and the contents fall back into the trap. Then, we head to our next inspection.

As we sit in traffic Shannon shares the tricks of the trade. Shannon is incredibly knowledgeable about her work and passionate about protecting the environment. Ever since she was young she’s deeply cared about keeping the planet clean. She remembers fondly how as a child she would pick up litter every day on her street. Her job helps her continue this goal of a clean planet and this puts a smile on my face.

Traffic finally lets up, and we arrive at our next inspection.

Not all grease traps are the same; just like any product, there are competitors and different variations. Shannon says that facilities may have a grease trap inside the kitchen. Just like this one.

Trap GIF

We head inside the store and are greeted by the owner. She gladly takes us to the back to show Shannon the new grease trap they had installed. Shannon says this is the “Cadillac” of grease traps. What makes this trap special is the four separate compartments and screens made of carbon fiber. The extra compartments help clean the traps more thoroughly. Shannon says the carbon fiber means it is a grease trap that will never need to be replaced, unlike other traps.

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The “Cadillac” grease trap

Shannon’s job isn’t just inspections. Often she does public education. In the case of this facility, they had just recently opened. They didn’t know how to set up cleanings for the traps.  Shannon gladly gives her a packet of companies that do inspections and cleanings and left the owner with her business card in case she had any more questions.

The owner is relieved and thanks’ Shannon for her help. Shannon says its all part of the job. What Shannon won’t say, but I will is… Shannon rocks. We pack up and head to the next inspection

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Inside look

A few inspections later and we are at the last one of the day. As we get out of the truck, Shannon notices a storm drain right outside the storefront. She heads over for a closer look. What I thought looked like rust, was actually dried grease. We peer down and see a grease build up. Concerned, Shannon follows the line to the storm drain on the street. So much grease has been poured down, that there was a grease build up all the way in the street storm drain.

Shannon and I go inside for the inspection to see if they have all the proper equipment and cleanings done. They had it all. With all the proper equipment, it was confusing to so much grease being poured into the storm drain out front.

Shannon reminds the owner to dispose of all grease properly. She then gives them a Flow Free poster. As we leave she tells me the county will handle it from here.

I ask why the county would look further into the issue. Shannon informs me that Charlotte Water manages drinking and wastewater pipes but not stormwater pipes. Shannon documents the issue on the stormwater watcher app and passes along the information to the right folks. We get in the truck to head home.

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I learned so much from Shannon during my day. She is boundless with knowledge and very passionate about her job. One thing I will remember is how much Shannon cares for her work. She’s helping keep Charlotte clean.

Shannon was smiling all day long. Born and raised in the greater Charlotte area, it is clear that she loves this city and is happy to help keep it clean. Thank you again, Shannon!

Be sure to check in next time of A Day in the Life. Stay tuned to hear about more of Charlotte Water through the eyes of a summer intern!




A Day in the Life: Large Meter Repair Crew Chief

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Large Meter Work Scene.

Summer intern Jake Dube is on a quest. Join him as he shadows Charlotte Water staff to learn about all the different things that Charlotte Water staff do in the community. 

Charlotte Water has 912 employees. I am going to work alongside as many as I can to learn as much as I can about the utility. Last week, I had the pleasure of shadowing Bobby Sloan, Large Meter Repair Crew Chief, on my first ride-along of the summer.

His day begins early. Bobby doesn’t mind, he is an early bird and wakes up around 3:45 a.m. He doesn’t need much, a walk in the crisp morning air and a cup o’ joe. He knocks out office work before we meet. I arrive and grab our gear and head to the truck.

In addition to working out in the field, Crew Chiefs coordinate and dispatch staff to various jobs each day. When I get into the truck, Bobby looks over his ToughBook and examines the list of jobs for the day. He chooses his service request to respond to and starts the truck.

Bobby is a detective. He investigates strange water bills. The first service job we are heading to is for a low water bill. We arrive at the apartment complex and find the water meter box.

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Bobby Sloan taking a reading from the large water meter.

Bobby uses his tool to open the meter box and begins to run a test. He makes sure that the device registers the same number found on the meter.

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Inside look

The meter is registering the same numbers the scanner is. Bobby looks up briefly to ponder the problem in front of him. In what feels like no time at all I see the light bulb turn on. Bobby knew exactly what to do next.

He comes back from the truck holding a water key. He takes the key, sticks it down around a bolt and turns…

Water Gif

With water running, it confirms that the meter was working properly. Bobby deals exclusively with the meter. Anything past the meter box is not his expertise.  The large meter was working, and water was registering. The apartment complex may not use much water, or there is an issue elsewhere in the system. This means that this ticket will stay open and someone else will come back to further investigate the problem.

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The Water Key

This is how most days go. Find the job, look at the meter, and solve the problem.

Everything is running smoothly before the last meter of the day…

Bobby is responding to a request to locate a meter. Charlotte Water staff went out to check the meter but could not find it. That was now our job.

Bobby pulls out his phone and opens up a city app that shows all the water and sewer mains, manholes, and meters in Charlotte. We see that there is a meter box down the street. We orientate ourselves and get walking.

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Beginning the search for the meter box

Bobby is carrying a prod, this tool is used to poke the ground. Sometimes the meter box is covered in overgrowth. Bobby suspects this is the reason the crew couldn’t find the meter. We walk down the street to the spot on the app. With no meter box immediately in sight, we begin looking around the surrounding area. 

Bobby works his way around some large trees and starts poking around. We come up with nothing. Bobby looks at me with a small smirk on his face. Just like he has done all day, he gets an idea. We go back to the truck to use a trick of the trade.

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Searching for the meter box

He opens Google Maps on his phone. He taps the button for street view and drags the slider to 2011. We are looking at the same street, but not as overgrown. He is looking for blue spray paint on the side of the road; a mark used by staff to identify water meters on the street. Though this is neat, we still can’t find the meter box.

Not being discouraged, Bobby grabs his ToughBook to do some investigating. He looks up the history of this meter box and found the last person to service it. The name reads Frank; he smiles and says “Watch this”. Frank is on Bobby’s team and must be one of the most organized people I have ever met.  He calls Frank, who opens his excel spreadsheet noting every meter he has serviced. Frank laughs as he had to find this meter. He directs us down the block, around the corner. We follow his directions and find the spot.

Problem solved right? We finally found it…ish. We look up from the blue marking on the street to find weeds 5 feet tall.

Bobby gets out of the truck and grabs his tools.

After a few minutes, he cuts his way to the meter box, sticks his shovel in the ground, and catches his breath.

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Meter box finally found

We approach the top of the meter box and open it up. We are finally done… except there is one more surprise left.

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Filled meter box.

The meter box is filled with water. Bobby explains that this is common in low lying areas.

As I stand there wondering how in the world we could solve this, Bobby goes to work. In his truck, he starts pulling tools out and he hooks something into his truck battery. It is a portable pump. Version 2

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Portable pump.

He takes the pump and places it down into the meter box. With a flip of a switch, the water comes pumping out.

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Pump in action.

After a minute, the meter box is clear of water. Bobby checks to see if the meter is working correctly. Before we leave, he sprays blue spray paint to help the next crew member find the box.

Spray Gif.gif

As we are driving back to the office, I thank Bobby for letting me tag along. I started out my day as a novice and now I know so much about large meters.

At the end of the day, one thing was clear. Bobby wants the best for the customers of Charlotte Water. He makes sure that they have access to water 24.7 and that the meter is working properly. He is an incredible guy and a fountain of knowledge. I had a wonderful day riding around with him. Thanks again, Bobby!

For more stories on other Charlotte Water employees, stay up to date with us on our blog and other social media accounts!

Life in 1927 vs. 2017

No one can dispute that a lot has changed in 90 years. One thing that hasn’t changed is Charlotte Water’s commitment to safeguarding public health and protecting our waterways.  Our twin wastewater treatment plants, Sugar Creek and Irwin Creek are celebrating their 90th birthday this year (they were built in 1927). While these two plants have expanded and advanced in technology throughout the last 90 years, they continue to be an award-winning treatment plant that serves the Charlotte community 24/7.

Let’s compare the world in 1927 to now.

1927 2017
President: Calvin Coolidge President: Donald Trump
Top Film: The Jazz Singer

Jazz Singer

Top Film: Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast

Top Song: Ain’t She Sweet by Gene Austin

Listen Here

Top Song: Shape of You by Ed Sheeran

Listen Here

Average Household Income: $1,358 Average Household Income: $56,516
Gallon of milk cost: $0.56 Gallon of milk cost: $3.30
Gallon of Gas: $0.21 Gallon of Gas: $2.32
Postage Stamp: $0.02 Postage Stamp: $0.49
Top Book: The Complete Sherlock Holmes By Arthur Conan Doyle

Sherlock Holmes

Top Book: Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of A Family and Culture in Crisis By J.D. Vance

Hillbilly Elegy

Top Baby Name: Robert (m) Mary (f) Top Baby Name: Liam (m) Emma (f)
Average College Cost per year: $400 Average College Cost per year: $33,480