Tag Archives: employee spotlight

Something To Be Grateful For

We’re grateful for our Charlotte Water employees who work 24/7/365 so that the rest of us can enjoy the holiday.

As you sit down for your Thanksgiving meal and you are pondering a unique thing to be thankful for, you can be grateful for running water and safely managed sanitation. According to the WHO and UNICEF’s Progress on Household Drinking Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Report, only 74% of the world’s population has safe drinking water. That means more than two billion people are without consistent access to clean drinking water.   

Additionally, only 54% of the world’s population has access to safely regulated sanitation services. We are incredibly fortunate to have safe, high-quality water and well-maintained wastewater systems.

Charlotte Water is one of the largest water and sanitation service utilities in the Southeast with over 1,050 employees to support the more than one million residents.  To keep over 9,000 miles of water and wastewater pipes, three water treatment plants, seven wastewater treatment plants, and several water storage, water towers, and facilities all maintained and running 24/7/365, many Charlotte Water employees must work on and through holidays or stay on-call in case of emergencies.   

Leaks and backups happen on holidays, too!

Crystal Josey works as a dispatcher for Charlotte Water. She shares her experience working over holidays:

“My job during the holiday is no different than it is during normal working hours. Water leaks still happen and sewer backups still occur. These incidents happen any time of any day. My job is to take the correct information from the reporting person and send the correct crew to investigate and/or make necessary repairs. A crew must be paged in from home, get everyone together, and get to the truck and the work site.”  

Barbara Armstrong is a Sr. Water Service Technician. She is first on-site for leaks and breaks. She describes her role:

“Water service leaks are unpredictable, and they could happen at any given time including during the holidays. I can repair some water service leaks in an average timeframe of approximately, 10-30 minutes. However emergency main breaks or emergency water service leaks can typically take 2 to 4 hours to complete, and they are completed by a Field Operations Construction Crew. For the most part, we don’t want to interrupt the customers’ holiday, and we only make emergency repairs on the holidays.”  

Don’t wash grease down the pipes

When families making meals wash grease down the sink, the risk of pipes backing up or clogging increases. As the weather gets colder, the grease hardens into solid masses that cause problems.

“Sewer complaints are always handled as an emergency and we seem to receive more sewer calls over the holidays for various reasons. A lot of cooking and grease/food down the drain is not a good thing,” Josey comments.  

Keep this in mind as you prepare your holiday meals! When grease hardens in pipes, it can cause messy, smelly back-ups. These back-ups can cause sewer overflows or even come back into your house. So, wipe your pans out with paper towels, throw them away, and our pipes will continue to flow free.

Say “Hi!” if you see our trucks

Charlotteans wouldn’t be able to appreciate the holiday without dedicated Charlotte Water staff serving the community. Take a moment to thank those who are working diligently to manage these systems and those who are ready to jump in if there is an emergency while you’re celebrating. If you see Charlotte Water trucks in your neighborhood, wave and say hi! Armstrong shares:

Working on the holiday is an added bonus for me because I enjoy serving the community, and it makes me feel proud when customers see me driving a Charlotte Water vehicle throughout their neighborhoods. Customers are very happy to see me arrive at their residence on a holiday. Most of them can’t believe that I am working on a holiday, and then they are very thankful for my service. I take pride in what I do, and I’m always there to help our customers. I try to put their worries at ease and let them know that Charlotte Water will take care of any issue that they may have as long as it’s not on the private side.”  

* Progress on household drinking water, sanitation and hygiene 2000-2020: five years into the SDGs. Geneva: World Health
Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), 2021.

Employee Spotlight: O’Brien Walls

This employee spotlight features Flemming “O’Brien” Walls who just celebrated 40 years of working for Charlotte Water. O’Brien currently works as a Planner Scheduler in the Field Operations Division, and in this Q&A session, he shares with us what his career path has looked like over these past 40 years, and recognizes those who have helped to shape his career.

O’Brien Walls, Case Manager in 1998

Tell us about yourself and how your career began with Charlotte Water?

I’m happily married, Debbie and I have five grown adults and seven adorable grandkids. We attend Millennium Temple Baptist Church where I serve as chair trustee. I graduated from West Charlotte High School back in 1979 and continued my education for two years at The Winston Salem State University. I joined the City of Charlotte Utilities Wastewater Collections Division on December 9, 1981, as a Laborer I. While there my parents advised me to always check the vacancy sheet, and with me knowing I was starting from the bottom, my motivation was to learn all that I could because I knew I aspired to be in management one day.

Can you provide an overview of your career path with Charlotte Water?

I quickly started climbing my career ladder. In 1983 I was promoted to Laborer II and transferred over to the Customer Service Division off of Patton Avenue. In 1988, I became a Water Service Technician, and then my next move was into the supervisory position in 1989 as a Crew Chief I. In 1996, I became a Crew Chief II Large Meter Maintenance Supervisor, where I supervised four of our two-men crews that were responsible for keeping our commercial water meters running accurately. In 1998 I became a Case Manager where I was responsible for two Water Quality Technicians and half of the county water quality, and high- and low-pressure complaints. Lastly, in 2004, I transitioned to my current position as a Planner Scheduler in Field Operations.

O’Brien Walls, in 1989 and 1996

What do you love the most about your job?

The enjoyment of working for CLTWater and the public, the camaraderie at CLTWater, the stability in this industry, and my personal growth.

What is the most interesting thing you’ve seen on the job?

The main break we had several years ago on Freedom Drive where the street buckled up for approximately a quarter of a mile; it looked like an earthquake had commenced.

What is your favorite memory of working with Charlotte Water?

My co-workers and managers; I have met a plethora of friends that have become family!

Throughout my tenure I’ve had several mentors and influential people that I would like to mention: Curtis Mingo, Jean McClain, Dowd Yandle, William Mason, Charles Pluchinsky, Angela Charles, Ed Dehlin, Claudette Beatty, Kelly Dixon, Marion Sanders, and David “Doc” St. Laurent.

Engineering Week & Black History Month Spotlight: Carl Wilson, Chief Engineer

This double feature spotlight is on Chief Engineer, Carl Wilson, who is the first African-American male Chief Engineer for Charlotte Water. Check out our Q&A with Carl, as he shares some of his story with us.

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

“I am from the great state of South Carolina where I earned a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from the University of South Carolina. I always wanted to pursue a career in the science field but allowed people to talk me out of it. However, after graduating and working for Bank of America as a Research Analyst, I didn’t feel satisfied, so I quit my job, moved to Charlotte, and started working for a temporary agency where I was introduced to surveying and the civil engineering field. I was eventually hired in the newly started Storm Water department. After working there, I was promoted to a position in CDOT and eventually promoted to a position with CLTWater (CMUD at the time). Since joining CLTWater, I have been in six positions as I worked my way through the organization, starting as an Engineering Assistant in New Services (Account Services) in 1995 to my current job, Chief Engineer of Capital Projects and Operations Support.”

How long have you been working for Charlotte Water?

“I have been working for CLTWater for 26 years.”

Can you provide an overview of the work you do – a brief “day-in-the-life” description?

“Unfortunately, I no longer am involved with project management activities. Instead, my day is filled with various meetings and decision-making on various topics, ranging from project updates to departmental and/or City strategic discussions.”

What do you love the most about your job?

“I enjoy being a part of a department that’s responsible for providing a vital service to the community.”

What is the most interesting thing you’ve seen on the job?

“I’ve seen quite a bit over the years, so where do I start?? I would say how much our department has changed over the years in response to the tremendous growth of our service area.”

What are your hobbies outside of work?

I love spending time with my family, riding my motorcycle, and playing golf.

Engineering Week Spotlight: Mark Bullins, Environmental Compliance Manager – Backflow Prevention

Mark Bullins, Environmental Compliance Manager, shares his insights with us for Engineering Week on his work with Backflow Prevention (aka Cross-Connection Control).

I have been involved in Backflow Prevention, also known as Cross Connection Control, for over twenty years. As anyone who knows me will tell you, it is a subject I am passionate about. In my past employment, I have dealt with incidents of contamination from unprotected or illicit cross-connections and the consequences to a city’s water supply as well as the water customer. Doing my best to make sure that the drinking water Charlotte Water delivers to its customers remains pure and safe is my highest priority.

Fixed air gap on a tanker fill pipe

As the Environmental Compliance Manager for the Backflow Group, I oversee a team that reviews construction plans and inspects installations, making sure that water connections are properly protected with the correct backflow prevention assemblies and that they are being installed correctly for testing and maintenance. This group also creates and keeps records of these assemblies, their locations, the type, model, serial numbers, test reports, and approved testers; all the items required for compliance. They also handle questions from testers and contractors.

Putting it simply, once the treated water is delivered to the customer through the water meter, we do not want it to flow back into Charlotte Water’s distribution system. For example, for some water services such as a below-ground lawn irrigation system, the water can come into contact with anything found in or on the soil. This may include fertilizers, pesticides, microorganisms…etc. Fire sprinkler systems are another example; they sometimes contain water that can sit stagnant for up to a year at a time. Some fire protection systems also contain toxic chemical additives such as suppressant foam or antifreeze or have the ability for chemicals to be pumped into them. These are only a few examples of why the public water supply needs to be protected.

Parallel backflow prevention assembles an inside installation

Another part of Charlotte Water’s Backflow Prevention program exists in the Customer Service division. This is where the water tanker and hydrant use program is located. The Customer Service group also handles calls from customers, enrolls customers in our Water Smart program, and issues letters for testing for existing customers. Backflow prevention assemblies per city ordinance must be tested annually. With their online portal, backflow testers can submit test results electronically with final acceptance by Charlotte Water. 

Reduced pressure principle assembly with heat tape

People are often confused about what backflow prevention is, and seem to think it is about the “backwater” devices that prevent sewage from coming into a home or business. Many people do not realize that pressurized water from the distribution system can flow in a reverse direction from the water customer or how it can occur. Part of our responsibility is to educate others on the work we do.

Running a backflow prevention program is always challenging and never boring. I enjoy working at Charlotte Water and enjoy the professionalism of the people I work with.