Tag Archives: engineer

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.

Engineering Week Spotlight: Steve Roosen, Construction Inspector

Haley Cook, an Engineering Project Coordinator for Charlotte Water, spent the day with Steve Roosen, Construction Inspector, to learn more about the work that he does each day.

Engineering Week often leads us to think about Senior Project Managers and Professional Engineers designing crucial services for our community. As a Project Coordinator, I create plan sheets and gather permits before construction begins. Project Managers are responsible for project feasibility, customer coordination, approving plan sheets, etc. But what happens after all those plans are signed, sealed, and approved? The project is handed to Construction Inspectors, who help turn the engineer’s pipe dreams into a functioning reality. Projects are constructed by a reputable private construction company approved by the City and supervised by a designated Construction Inspector. Inspectors are responsible for verifying the project is completed according to the plans and relaying that information to the engineer.

Steve Roosen, Construction Inspector

Steve Roosen has been with Charlotte Water for nearly 35 years as a Construction Inspector. He has overseen all kinds of water and sewer projects in all corners of the service area. Steve has most of the Charlotte Water details and specifications memorized (although he always has a copy on-site) and is confident he can tackle any problem. When asked how he navigates difficulties in the field, Steve notes, “We don’t have a problem, we never have a problem, we have a challenge.”

Challenges are few and far between for a man that has almost seen it all. The main challenge he’ll face is keeping open communication between contractors and engineers since field changes are almost inevitable. Project coordinators organize utility locates and incorporate survey data into the utility’s design. It’s our goal to make plans as realistic as possible and think of any potential issues a contractor may face. Surveys for engineering plans, however, can end up being completed up to a year before construction. Topography, underground utilities, and clients can drastically shift the construction plans before the project is complete. Steve is always happy to answer any questions about construction during the design process and lend his advice when these difficulties arise.

Steve explains how he uses a mandrel to test pipe deflection after construction is complete.

The Charlotte Water Standards are continuously improving, which results in changes to how utilities are installed and documented. Steve shares that over his years at Charlotte Water he has “seen a lot of changes, good or bad, but never been discouraged or had to carry out something [he] disagreed with. I’ve worked with great engineers and supervisors… couldn’t ask for any better. Love Charlotte Water.” His favorite part of the job is being on-site with the people he has known for many years.

Steve is usually out in the field but is always willing to lend a hand to his fellow Design and Construction team members. When Steve is not at work, you can find him on a body of water in his bass fishing boat or competing in national BASS championships.

Engineers Week Spotlight: Nathan Hampton’s Insights on Hydraulic Modeling

In honor of Engineers Week, we asked one of our very own engineers to share their experiences and insights on their work as an engineer. This article is written by Nathan Hampton, a Senior Engineer here at Charlotte Water. Nathan shares information about the critical work of virtually testing our pipes before they are installed in the ground.

Charlotte Water maintains over 8,000 miles of pipe – enough to travel to Alaska and back! With so much growth in Charlotte, that number is only going to increase. It’s no secret that the future is unpredictable, so how do we know when new water and wastewater pipes need to be installed or replaced? How do we know if the pipes will be the correct size to keep up with the city’s growth? That’s where our Charlotte Water Engineers come in. Engineers create a computer model to virtually “test out” the pipe before building the real thing! This testing ensures there will be enough capacity in the pipes now and years into the future.

Crew installing a 72-inch water pipe to serve south and western portion of Mecklenburg County.

Water and sewer models have been used by utilities ever since the computer was invented to apply flow calculations to water pipe networks and wastewater collection systems. These models predict when and where the system will run out of room for flow and where existing pipes can be replaced. The models predict and test for the normal day-to-day flow and for the worst-case scenarios when the pipe is really put to the test.

Of course, a model is only as good as the data that goes into it. Months of wastewater flow and level data, water pressure data, pipe roughness characteristics, hydrant flow testing data, pipe diameters, slopes, valve locations and positions, (and so much more!) must be collected and validated at the start of creating a system model. In cases where a system model already exists, the same data must be updated to best represent the current system and calibrate to rigorous modeling standards before being deemed worthy to use for analysis.

CLTWater Engineers reviewing the design of an upcoming project.

Utilities continuously invest in keeping healthy, ready-to-use models to aid in system analysis. Equally as important as the data that goes into the model are the engineers who use it. Model users must take care to base their modeling results on sound assumptions and quality data.

So the next time you think about the pipe in your neighborhood, you can also think about how it existed as a virtual pipe in a model before becoming the real thing. For more information about Charlotte Water’s water and wastewater system computer models, contact the Engineering Planning department by visiting CharlotteWater.org.