Tag Archives: careers

Engineering Week: The Many Hats of Our Engineers

CLTWater & CDM Smith staff visiting Raleigh’s Thermal hydrosis process (THP), currently under construction

We have a lot of engineering jobs at Charlotte Water, but did you know that not all of them are the same? There are many different types of engineers that work in various divisions across our department. This article features a Q&A with three different engineers within Charlotte Water who share a glimpse of the work they do for us and our community.

Muriel Steele running samples in Irwin Creek’s lab

Muriel Steele, Wastewater Process Engineer

Q: Provide us with an overview of the work you do – a brief “day-in-the-life”

A: I provide technical support for the wastewater treatment plants with projects like planning and review of engineering studies, evaluation of new equipment or processes, and troubleshooting operational issues. No two days are alike. Recently I have been working on polymer trials to select the best products for each plant’s thickening and dewatering operations, creating a timeline for a recurring issue at one of our plants to better identify the root cause, working with IT to develop interactive dashboards to summarize our collection system sampling data in a useful manner, and writing plans to pilot a new technology at one of our WWTPs.

Q: Tell us about your background, education, and career path – what inspired you to become an engineer?

A: I originally wanted to study architecture because I thought it would combine two of my favorite high school subjects: art and math. Signing up for my first semester of classes, I learned that I had already taken all the required math classes for an architecture degree while I was in high school. I was shocked and panicked! I quickly changed course to what I thought would be the closest thing that required more math: civil engineering. As I progressed through the curriculum, I figured out that water interested me far more than buildings, so I took all the water and environmental classes my college offered and worked in a water lab as an undergraduate. After finishing my BS in Civil Engineering, I went to graduate school for Environmental Engineering where I focused on water and wastewater processes. After graduating I worked as a consulting engineer supporting utilities across the southeast, the US, and even internationally. But after my first project with Charlotte Water, I knew I wanted to work here and have a more active role in supporting our public infrastructure and protecting the local environment.

Q: How long have you been working for Charlotte Water?

A: Coming up on 4 years

Q: What is the most interesting story or thing you’ve seen on the job?

A: The weird things we find in the barscreens/headworks/preliminary treatment at our plants (money, 2x4s, even shopping carts on some of the larger lines)! My favorite was when an operator (at a plant I worked at in SC, not at Charlotte Water) found a diamond ring in the bar screen and proposed to his girlfriend with it!

Also, the aquatic wildlife we see around our outfalls reminds me that we are doing it for more than just the humans in the community. There are a couple of huge soft shell turtles that like to hang around Irwin that are awesome.

Q: What do you love the most about your job?

A: The thing I love most about my job is working with a diverse group people, with different backgrounds and experience, all working to provide a service to our community and the natural environment. I feel like the work we do every day really is for the greater good.

Jason Bromirski, Senior Engineer with Field Operations

Q: Provide us with an overview of the work you do – a brief “day-in-the-life

A: I was lucky enough to be hired by Angela as a Senior Engineer in Field Operations back in 2016. At that time my group was only a handful of personnel doing physical condition assessments of our “Critical Assets” (aerials, force mains, and other exposed sewer lines), acoustic inspections of sewer lines with our SL-RATs units, and sewer point repairs.

Since then, most front line condition assessments of the collection system, and a number of field and engineering support activities have been consolidated into my group. With over 40 employees, my Strategic Operations Support Group performs CCTV surveys in ~1 million linear feet (LF) of sewer mains and now laterals annually, acoustic blockage detection in ~2 million LF of sewer annually, rehabilitates or replaces components of both the collection and distribution system with two large construction crews, completes nearly 1,100 Critical Asset inspections annually, maintains and responds to over 400 SmartCover level sensors that prevent sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs), conducts drone flights for aerial investigations of our assets, manages nine contracts for condition assessment and rehabilitation, and acts as liaisons to other Charlotte Water divisions, City departments, agencies, contractors, and most importantly the public.

Sardis Road Diversion Box

Q: Tell us about your background, education, and career path – what inspired you to become an engineer?

A: I grew up in Spartanburg, SC, moved to Charlotte and attended UNCC. At the time I wanted to pursue a career in GIS, and began interning with Charlotte Water in the middle of my junior year. After graduation, I decided to take a different approach and focus on my passion for construction. Early on I was encouraged by Dennis Gwaltney to apply for one of his open construction inspection positions. He decided to hire me on, and immediately he and Chuck Bliss assigned me to a number of large diameter water and sewer projects. The complexity and the challenge of large scale CIP jobs sparked further interest in me, and as priorities of the department changed, I worked on numerous rehab and replacement projects as well. After a year overseas, I moved to California for two years and worked as a resident engineer and project manager for a small consulting firm. We specialized in federally funded streetscapes, underground utilities, signalization, and bridge projects in municipalities all over northern California. It was interesting to see the different practices and focus in that part of the country. During that time I continued working on and completed my masters in construction management which prepared me for my current position at Charlotte Water.

Q: How long have you been working for Charlotte Water?

A: 18 years

Q: What is the most interesting story or thing you’ve seen on the job?

A: The most interesting thing I encounter routinely on the job is getting to go where likely very few people go. My team and Field Operations in general gets to work in the busiest streets and also the most quiet corners of the county. It can be an eerie feeling when you stand in the middle of our major thoroughfares at rush hour and there is no traffic because the road is shut down due to a repair. It can also be completely calm and peaceful in a flood plain or outfall easement that has not been turned into a greenway yet. With all the development that has occurred in Mecklenburg County, there are some places that are still quite remote.

Q: What do you love the most about your job?

A: The thing I love most about my job is I am positioned to interact with so many people from so many different backgrounds and disciplines and I always learn something new. That allows me to exchange ideas and listen to needs and solve problems, but also to demo new technology. I have always had wonderful supervisors and managers at Charlotte Water, and this gives me the freedom to pursue new and varied approaches to existing and emerging problems encountered at all levels.

Jason Bromirski working on Westinghouse Blvd in 2017

Clark Sanders, Electrical Engineer at McAlpine Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant

Q: Provide us with an overview of the work you do – a brief “day-in-the-life”

A: This morning started with trying to determine if some power distribution equipment that a project team originally installed as a temporary installation was acceptable as a permanent solution. Several emails, phone calls, and meetings with plant personnel generated a recommendation for that project’s management team.  In between those calls, I continued to update a document I created to try and help clarify what power interruptions would happen across the plant when our Delivery 2 switchgear is updated in a few months. That was interrupted by an unexpected meeting to provide input on another projects issue with duct bank routing.

Next on the agenda for the day was coordinating some work at Delivery 1 with Duke Power and plant operations. After lunch I started investigating a sensor issue at our generators that led to tracing wiring and then to the PLC program, to be investigated on another day. The remaining afternoon was taken up with continuing discussions with an integrator on various projects coming up. Those included a PLC upgrade for our generators, new communications for the mixers being replaced at our fermenter, and modification to our plant SCADA network to free up some IP addresses and improve the way we utilize our power monitoring equipment.

Upgrading mixers at the fermenter to ethernet comms

Q: Tell us about your background, education, and career path – what inspired you to become an engineer?

A: I have always enjoyed working on cars and computers when I was younger, and my first journey to college at UNC Chapel Hill was for a degree in Computer Programming. It was somewhat disappointing because, at the time, UNC’s programming was basically a glorified math class. That led to a slight change of course into the US Marine Corps as an Aviation Electronics Technician. That was a lot more interesting so after completing my enlistment, I attended the other UNC at Charlotte to obtain my Electrical Engineering degree.

As an Engineer, I have traveled to Europe, Nova Scotia, Mexico, and across the US several times. I have designed and installed controls for glass plants, tire plants, chemical plants, high speed conversion lines, grid tie battery storage systems, and the most fun, a battery test system in the Tesla plant. Its been a career that has let me travel and see wide variety of manufacturing processes.

Replacing a failed drive at the sand filters

Q: How long have you been working for Charlotte Water?

A: Three years.

Q: What is the most interesting story or thing you’ve seen on the job?

I have seen a lot of complex manufacturing processes, but wastewater treatment seems to be a complex living process and not at all what I expected.

Q: What do you love the most about your job?

A: The opportunity to continue to learn and the people I work with.

Creating Utility Careers: Charlotte Water’s Employment Programs

Trust the process.” That is what Training Specialist Sherri Jones says to participants of Charlotte Water’s employment programs. Beginning a new career is never easy, but with the right mindset and tools for success, anything is possible.

Earlier this year, Charlotte Water began developing programs that would provide participants with on-the-job experience, and a clear path for training and success. Those programs are the Pipeline Academy and the Apprenticeship Program. Both programs offer a foundation for a successful career with Charlotte Water. But the main difference is that one program is able to guarantee employment upon successful completion, while the other cannot make that same guarantee.

The Pipeline Academy is our internship program. This program operates like other internship programs, in the sense that companies do not always guarantee that they will be able to offer you a job at the end of your placement. But, if you thrive, and there is an opportunity available, then every effort would be made to hire that participant. The academy’s first cohort of 10 interns started in February of 2019; 9 of the 10 interns completed in August, and all 9 were hired as full-time employees for Charlotte Water.

The Apprenticeship Program is similar to the Pipeline Academy, but this year-long program guarantees a job to participants upon successful completion. The only requirements to apply are that you are 18 years old, have a valid drivers licence, have a high school degree or GED, and you have the ability and passion to work hard and learn. Through the program, participants will have the ability to attend trainings, obtain certifications, obtain all city benefits, and have opportunities to grow and develop within Charlotte Water. As the program continues to grow and develop, Charlotte Water’s training specialists are partnering with others in the community to be able to provide wraparound services to its program participants.

Charlotte Water’s employment programs have been so successful that the City of Charlotte began a program called Career Pathways. Their first group included 49 interns across seven city departments.

Be on the lookout for upcoming spotlight stories on our past and present program participants!

A Day in the Life: Dispatch Operator

Summer intern Jake Dube continues his adventure. This time, Jake sits in with dispatch operator Lester Gray. Jake picked his brain and learned what it means to work dispatch for Charlotte Water.

You remember that one kid in school that seemed to know EVERYTHING? Every school activity, everyone’s summer plans, even your secret crush? Well, that is Lester and everyone else in dispatch. The six of them rotate hours to do the job 24/7, always ready to handle any problem.

Phone calls, emails, and alarms oh my! All of these come flooding to dispatch throughout the day. Dispatch needs to be in the “know” about everything happening across the county. Lester will get an email for every event involving Charlotte Water. The fire department, 311 Call Center, and supervisors all email dispatch every day. Being a point of contact for anything happening means you get a lot of information sent to you.

What they do with this information is extremely important. They relay the information to the appropriate parties so they will be handled accordingly. Remember the 311 Call Center? They often call Lester and transfer over callers reporting leaks. He finds where the leak is coming from and notifies the right crew to fix the problem.

As I sit and watch Lester fields calls and emails at a rapid pace, an abrupt alarm sounds. I nearly jump out of my chair. Lester gets a good chuckle out of this and goes to a desktop around the corner. This alarm is for any lift station or treatment plant. If there is an issue,  whether that is low pressure or a machine is malfunctioning, the alarm sounds.

Lester clicks a few buttons and sits back in his seat. I wonder why there wasn’t any sense of urgency. A malfunctioning treatment plant sounds pretty serious to me. He smiles as I express my concern and he pulls up an email. It is from the technician of the wastewater treatment plant saying to disregard all alarms from the plant today because they were running tests. When a plant doesn’t send the email, and the alarm sounds, then you call the on-call technician to take care of it.

Plant Monitor System

I cannot imagine having to receive so many emails in a day. In the time it took Lester to get up, acknowledge the alarm, and sit back down he received 8 emails.

Lester admits that some days can be fast, with nonstop calls, emails, and alarms. On slower days, or lulls between the calls and emails he uses his time wisely and preps for the future. He cleans out his email, looks at updates, and makes sure he is ready for the next rush.

I am picking Lester’s brain during a quiet moment. Mid response, Lester is interrupted by the phone. He picks up and introduces himself. It’s from 311; transferring a caller who is reporting a leak. A few moments later, a man starts explaining the situation. His construction crew had hit the mainline. “The water shot above the house!” I believe were the exact words used. Lester asks a few questions, gathers the information, tells him to stay put and that Charlotte Water would be there shortly.

Lester fills out the report, takes screenshots of the information and sends an email to the right folks to go check it out. Without missing a beat he’s back to prepping for a future rush.

I find myself wondering what it must be like to wear so many hats. Lester handles phone calls, dispatches crews, coordinates through email, and… BUZZZZ. My line of thought is interrupted by another loud sound. I look up to see the monitor above his desk zoom in on the security gate. Lester chuckles again due to my reaction and greets the driver. It’s the landscaper coming to do work on the property. Lester opens the gate for them.


Another hat that Dispatch wears is security! They have monitors that show all the different cameras around the facility.

I sit and watch as Lester goes about his work. Coordinating with others, answering calls, opening security gates, and dispatching to crew chiefs and supervisors. If there is anyone who knows about everything Charlotte Water does daily… it’s Lester Gray.

My day with Lester was coming to a close. As I was packing up, Lester was still answering the phone, letting people through the gate, and receiving endless emails. I thanked Lester for teaching me so much. As a worker for Charlotte Water for over 23 years, he sure was able to tell me all about the history of the utility.

A firm handshake followed by “have a good one” and I was on my way home.

Above all, I will remember this. Dispatch helps Charlotte Water run smoothly. Without their constant communication and coordination, crews wouldn’t know where to go and what we were walking into. They are all wonderful people and dedicated workers who put in their time around the clock to make sure everything goes as planned. Thank you again, Lester!

Make sure to stay up to date on all things Charlotte Water by following us on TwitterFacebook, and YouTube. Don’t forget to check in on the CLTWater Blog so you won’t miss the next installment of A Day in the Life!

A Day in the Life: CharMeck 311 Call Center

Summer intern, Jake Dube’s adventure continues! Last week he was with CharMeck 311, sitting in with customer service representatives (CSR). Employees of 311 may not be Charlotte Water employees, but they do work for the City. In fact, of all phone calls at 311, 45% of them are Charlotte Water related. Come and join Jake on his day in the life of a 311 CSR.

I drive north and I pull into the large parking lot of 311. I find the lobby and wait for Dee Crayton, the program manager.

She tells me that 311 handles over a million calls every year. 450,000 of those are Charlotte Water related. These calls can consist of high water bills, reporting a leak, and everything else in between.

Dee explains the rigorous training CSR’s undergo before answering calls. First, the 12-14 week training period where you learn the call system and applications (Since they handle calls for both City and County, there are TONS of applications). To start, you learn two, then as time goes on, you take training courses for more applications and eventually become a “generalist” CSR.

After training, they are still not ready for the floor. They work in the “nesting pod”. This is where the small group starts answering calls in a controlled environment with close supervision. This period goes for 60 days. Once complete, they are ready for the floor.

After the tour, we take a seat in Dee’s office. She settles in and gives her email a quick glance. She turns away from her screen and gives me the rundown of my day. I get my own headset and go out onto the floor and sit down with CSR, LeNette Harrison.

LeNette answers utilities and Tax calls. The majority of her calls are about Charlotte Water. LeNette was kind and informative as I sat with her. I had so many questions but it was hard to squeeze any in because she was constantly answering calls. Since I can’t ask questions, I listen.

I am amazed by her multitasking. After each call ends, the CSR must log it. This log contains the subject and end result of the call. Every time LeNette ends a call she would immediately be connected to the next call. While answering that call, she was finishing the log for the previous one at the same time. It was impressive.

Next, I moved to generalist CSR: Julian Campbell. Julian has been with 311 for five years. Just looking at his desktop monitors gave me anxiety. He has so many different applications open at once so he can find the information needed no matter the call.

Julian handled calls ranging from Property disputes, bulky item pickups, and even high water bills. Remember my article on Bobby Sloan? When he investigates a high water bill, this is where it can start.

Julian’s knowledge was immense. Try and find someone who has more knowledge about Charlotte Mecklenburg overall than a CSR generalist. Can’t? I’m not surprised. That’s because they know all the services the city and county provide.

Days get busy at 311. At this point, there were between 20-40 callers on hold. CSR’s don’t ever rush a caller off the line, but they don’t like callers to sit on hold for too long.

Julian answered calls all the way to lunch. Some were easy and quick, and others were complicated. No matter what, Julian was thanked for his ability to help. Once he finished his last call, he switched his status to lunch break and went to eat.

I sit with my last CSR, Mozelle Bryant. Mozelle only chews Extra gum (Spearmint of course) and has since grade school. She’s been with 311 for over 10 years and is a generalist, like Julian. She offered me a stick of gum, then got to work.

Luckily while sitting with her, calls were not backed up like earlier. I take this time to ask questions about being a CSR. Mozelle says with a laugh that there is never a dull moment during her day. Things can pick up in the office and you won’t be able to put the headset down till quitting time. Especially as a generalist, you can go from answering questions about a water bill to then contacting animal control about a stray dog. Never a dull moment she says again as a call connects.

Before I know it, I look at the clock and realize it’s the end of my day. I thanked everyone who let me join them as I leave. I popped into Dee’s office to write a thank you note, then grab my bag and head home.

I gained so much respect for the job. All CSR’s are very knowledgeable and handle problems all day to find the help callers need.

The biggest takeaway that I had from this day was that all the employees; from the supervisors to CSR’s care. They are a resource to help the citizens of Charlotte-Mecklenburg and want there to be resolution to any callers issue. They are good at what they do, plain and simple.

It was a pleasure to sit in and watch them work. I learned so much about Charlotte Water and even more about the services the City provides.

A big Thank you again to Dee Crayton and everyone that I sat with! I had a blast.

Make sure you stay connected and follow Charlotte Water on TwitterFacebook, and YouTube to stay up to date on all the great work Charlotte Water is doing! Keep on the lookout for my next installment of ‘A Day in the Life’!