Most days, it is likely a regular resident served by Charlotte Water doesn’t even think about where their water comes from or the infrastructure that supports it. However, those thoughts can be at the forefront of your mind if you walk outside and see a flood in your yard from a leaky pipe or fitting.
Charlotte Water has staff on standby at all hours to receive calls about leaks all around the region and will send a tech into the field to personally investigate a problem. Relevant calls come into Dispatch, a team of individuals who man the line 24/7 to be on standby in case the worst happens.
One of the supervisors at Dispatch, Fred Moody, shared stories of his experiences during his years of service and some of the unique things he’s seen. He said that they see more calls during extreme weather, such as deep freezes, and that it’s important to bear in mind that freezes impact our pipes more than northern regions not because of aged infrastructure, but because we designed our systems to be suitable for the climate we live in.
Outside of extreme events, leaky fittings and pipes can be from a number of things and can range from a serious leak that threatens the integrity of a road to just a damp yard. Below, Danny Balose, a seasoned water service technician, listens to water running through a meter to diagnose where a leak may be coming from.
Danny has decades of experience within the area. When I was riding with him to learn more about his role, he knew where many neighborhoods were in Charlotte just by memory from his visits over the years. He holds a philosophy that each visit demands the same attention and care to get to the bottom of the problem. He is meticulous in his record keeping and commits time after each call to fill out exactly what happened.
Danny is just one of many individuals at Charlotte Water that remains dedicated to serving their community. If you see a leak in your own yard or in the street near your home, call 311 and Danny or another technician from Charlotte Water will come out to investigate.
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.
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 Twitter, Facebook, 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!