Tag Archives: field operations

No Main, No Gain: Maintenance of Your Water Mains

Field Operations for Charlotte Water is a critical component to the success of the utility. Serving an area of over one million people is a large undertaking. To add to that, the area of Charlotte is among one of the fastest-growing regions in the entire country. As growth continues, Field Operations must keep pace with maintaining old and new water mains throughout the county. How do they do it? With a strong team and a tried and true strategy.

Field Operations are split into four separate zones, each covering a distinct geographical area of the service area of Charlotte Water. This includes towns outside of Charlotte such as Cornelius, Davidson, Huntersville, Matthews, Mint Hill, and Pineville.

Pictured above is Zone 1, which serves the northern part of the region.

When asked what each Zone covers, Operations Manager, William Lee, said that focus is applied to areas of maintenance of water infrastructure and situations such as water main breaks, sewer main breaks, preventing and responding to sanitary sewer overflows, and maintaining critical assets such as manholes and sewer lines that reside within that Zone.

These individuals are experts in their field and possess a dedication to the city to see it function as smoothly and effectively as they can make it happen. Many people see through decades-long careers in Field Operations and bring a wide array of skill sets.

One example is Phil Stanley, a Team Leader at Zone 1. He started with Charlotte Water 23 years ago and before that, he had a long career in construction projects and working on plumbing and septic systems. When asked what he likes most he said, “I enjoy the investigative part of it. I like to solve problems and there’s a sense of fulfillment because you can physically see what you did and you serve the people of Charlotte.”

An example of a type of call Field Ops may respond to within the region.

There’s no shortage of interesting days with Field Operations within Charlotte Water, and there’s a little something for everyone. William Lee, Operations Manager, said, “Charlotte Water is a great place to work and there’s a lot of diversity. There are a lot of avenues to find your niche. You get out of it what you put into it.” In the Zone 1 facility, there is a section dedicated to training new field technicians. A particularly fascinating part of the training space was real examples of water and sewer mains with real tools to demonstrate how to make new connections and how to operate valves.

Interested in learning more and joining the team? Check out current job openings at jointeamwater.com

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.

Apprenticeship Program Field Operations Boot Camp

Charlotte Water created the City of Charlotte’s first water/wastewater industry apprenticeship program to increase jobs, training, and opportunities for individuals with multiple ​​employment barriers. The apprenticeship program is custom-designed to help individuals achieve the training and experience needed for a successful career at Charlotte Water.

Our second cohort of nine apprentices started in July. After going through orientation and some soft skills training, they are assigned an area to work, either in wastewater or field operations. This entire cohort was assigned to the field operations division. Field operations is our largest division, and the staff is in charge of maintaining the water and wastewater distribution system. Duties include main extensions, leak repairs, sanitary sewer overflow response and cleanup, wastewater pipe cleaning, maintenance of water monitoring stations, and much more.

Before the apprentices get assigned to a zone and a crew, they must go through a seven-week field operations boot camp where they learn how to do the job efficiently and safely.

Below are some photos taken by some the apprentices during boot camp.

Apprentices learn how to properly install a trench box during a pipe repair.
Apprentice Chevorne Lewis learns how to use a jackhammer to break concrete

Apprentices go through a water main leak simulation.
A tamping machine is a tough machine to handle and requires strength and focus.
Various items that apprentices need to know how to use for a repair or install.
Theirry Capongo experiences what 919 gallons per minute feels like from a flushing hydrant

The great thing about the apprenticeship program is that it doesn’t just benefit the apprentices, it also benefits current staff members. It provides them with additional leadership opportunities as apprentice mentors and trainers. In most cases these staff have then been promoted to new positions afterwards.

Group shot with Charlotte Water field operations crew member and trainer Jontavious Thompson.

You can learn more about the program and how to apply on our website.