Josh in Water Reclamation
"I manage a zoo of microscopic organisms, little bugs we call them, they treat all the water that comes down your toilet and your sink and make it nice and clean for all the fish in the Strait."
Get to know Josh, City employee of nine years and valued City Water Reclamation Facility (WRF) operator who is charting new waters on a two-year Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator apprenticeship with Evergreen Rural Water of Washington (ERWOW.)
This apprenticeship is a first for the WRF and the City and will provide two years of supervised training and accreditation.
Q - If you were presenting at an elementary school Career Day how would you describe your job?
A - I would say I manage a zoo of microscopic organisms, little bugs we call them, they treat all the water that comes down your toilet and your sink and make it nice and clean for all the fish in the Strait.
Q – So, what exactly happens to Sequim’s water at the Water Reclamation Facility?
A - The dirty water is coming in and we use microscopic organisms to basically digest the organic nutrients, using different processes to settle everything out and separate the water from the solids. That's essentially what we do in a nutshell, separating the good, clean water from the dirty solids. Then we send the clean water out and dispose of the solids.
Q - In your own words, can you provide an overview of this apprenticeship?
A - Essentially, it's just learning on the job and working with other treatment plants and professionals to get as big of a picture of the whole process and the licensing as possible. It's basically an in-depth, fast track to getting to Wastewater Operator II, which is a mid-level operator. Instead of floundering on your own trying to figure out what you need to know, it's all these people in the industry rallying around you and training you in every aspect of wastewater.
Q - This apprenticeship is a first for both the WRF and the City. How does it feel to be a part of this pioneering initiative?
A - Kind of like a guinea pig but in a good way. It feels good to be picked for it. It is a two-year commitment, so it feels good knowing the City has confidence in me to actually see this thing through and work through the full process, tweak it, and figure out how it's going to work for other people.
Q - What does an average day at work look like for you?
A - We all meet and put our heads together in the morning. Just all talking about where the facility is at, because how the facility is behaving kind of dictates our day. Then a lot of it is just checking on each process, putting hands on it. Making sure things are running properly and dialed in, that's the first half of the day. After that, everybody's fanning out to their “piece of the pie.”
We all kind of take a certain thing that becomes our baby for a certain amount of time. Alicia has the lab, that's her thing, she's running the tests all week and the findings she gets kind of tell us what's happening and how happy it is in all areas. I'm handling the biosolids right now, so everyone will check in with me to see how much room we have in the digestors or how the press is running. Timmy's the maintenance guy, he's the mechanical guru of the plant so he'll give a shout out when something needs a service or a piece of equipment is down, so he'll pull one of us to come help him fix something if it's a heavy lift. Michael's doing the grounds and facility maintenance. And then John is the lead, he's just kind of stressing about it all! John's the anxious dad who's like, "Ahh, what are all the kids doing?"
Q - What has your professional journey included so far up to this point?
A - I initially came from law enforcement for seven years as an officer. After that, I got into government contracts, working for a defense corporation, I spent a couple of years over in Iraq doing contractor work over there, mainly logistics work. Then I decided to follow a personal dream, I always wanted to own a café. I'm an avid chef. So, we moved to Kansas City and started a little health foods café. Then we got homesick. Growing up in Forks, every time I passed through Sequim, I'd be like, "Oh, Sequim is beautiful. I love the vibe. I love the weather." Sequim was always this nice, pretty little city that I knew as a kid, I had always thought I'd like to live there someday. That little nugget was floating around my brain throughout my whole life. So, I started looking at job postings in Sequim.
Q - Share a fun fact about yourself that most people might not know.
A - I am really into amateur mycology, mushrooms! I just love wild foraging all around. I'm really into mushroom hunting, that is a huge thing for me every year, I'm always doing that. So, I like to learn at least a couple of new mushrooms each year and then go out and try to find them. I've found quite a few.
Q - You work in a very collaborative environment at WRF. If you could have one famous person join you as a coworker at WRF, who would you choose and why?
A - Paul Stamets. He's a world-renowned mycologist [fungi and mushroom scientist.] He's an environmentalist to the core and he has a really cool perspective on life and just the amazingness of the natural world and how it functions. Real knowledgeable people like that are just fun to be around.
Q - If you could be a superhero based on your role, what powers would you possess that would make your job easier?
A - Do you know Avatar: The Last Airbender? Probably being a water bender. So, when the water's coming in we can pause it. You could have some time to think! That's the one thing we can't control, the water's coming in and there's no stopping it.