Multi-Talented Danny Locco Is Well Positioned to Lead His Utility Through Important Initiatives

By focusing on self-improvement, Danny Locco made himself a valuable and versatile leader and an effective mentor to members of his teams.

Multi-Talented Danny Locco Is Well Positioned to Lead His Utility Through Important Initiatives

Danny Locco inside the Woodward Avenue Wastewater Treatment Facility pump station, with a bank of six high-lift Goulds pumps, Model 3498, with 24,000 gpm capacity, each powered by a 1,900 hp TECO-Westinghouse 4,160 V motor.

Interested in Laboratory?

Get Laboratory articles, news and videos right in your inbox! Sign up now.

Laboratory + Get Alerts

Danny Locco is a man of many talents. His diverse training, education and varied positions in the water treatment industry make him valuable — a manager who can go wherever he is needed and excel.

After college he did not envision himself in a water career. But after applying for work in June 1990 at the Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto water treatment plant, he soon knew he had found his life path.

Fast forward three decades and Locco enjoys a fulfilling career in which he makes a positive impact on his community every day. As superintendent for water distribution in Hamilton, Ontario, he also helps operate distribution systems. He’s in a unique position to lead his utility through important initiatives like lead service line replacement.

A winding road

Locco’s first position in the water industry was as a water treatment operator for Metropolitan Toronto. After three years he took a position with the Regional Municipality of Niagara, which was closer to his childhood roots in the region; he stayed for 21 years. He then moved to Hamilton and assumed his current position.

Although he has changed jobs and locations, Locco has never wavered in his love for the job and the choice he had made to enter the industry. “When I first walked into the water plant in Toronto, I knew this was the job I wanted to do,” Locco says.

“I liked that I would be providing a valuable service, one that often people take for granted. With so many people in the world who don’t have access to fresh, clean or safe drinking water, it feels good to contribute to my community. The work is always interesting, and I find it very fulfilling.”

For most of his career, Locco was a treatment plant operator. While in Toronto he worked as an operator at several water plants, including RC Harris, Decew Falls, Grimsby and Toronto Island. In Hamilton he has stepped up to the role of acting plant maintenance and technical services manager. In 2020 he filled in as acting plant operations manager for several months. These are just a few of numerous times he has been asked to fill a vacant critical management position.

He has been chosen for his diverse skills and multiple certifications. He regularly attends director-approved trainings as well as nontechnical courses for leadership and team development and is a Six Sigma Green Belt.

He outs these skills to work constantly for Hamilton’s large and diverse operations. Hamilton takes water from Lake Ontario and treats it at its central Woodward Avenue Water Treatment Facility. Raw goes through pre-chlorination, screening and clarification by coagulation with polyaluminum chloride. This is followed by flocculation via mechanical mixing and sedimentation.

Granulated activated carbon is then used to remove taste and odor. Chlorine and ammonia are added to bring the chlorine residual to 2.2 to 2.5 mg/L. Fluoride is also added. The plant has a capacity of 2 mgd and at present operates one-fourth to one-third of its capacity.

Four areas in Hamilton use groundwater as their drinking water; treatment is handled by the Carlise, Freelton, Greensville and Lynden facilities, which use a variety of treatment processes. The city owns, operates and maintains the central and communal well water distribution systems, which include 1,260 miles of water mains, 12,755 fire hydrants, 20,860 water valves and 144,683 service connections.

A helping hand

Mentorship has always been important to Locco. “You can learn something from everybody, even if it’s not what to do,” he says. He has been mentored by various superintendents who advised putting himself on a path of self-improvement. “Some people would talk about continuous improvement, and at the time it may have felt like a catchphrase,” he says. “But I didn’t want to be stagnant. It was important that I continue to improve myself and challenge myself to do better, not just in work but in life,” says Locco.

One particular during his time at Niagara, Andy Forbes, taught him the value of hard work and a continuous improvement mindset. Because of that, Locco is always on the lookout for industry articles, webinars, conferences and outlets where he can take in as much training as his schedule allows and so expand his industry knowledge and keep up with trends.

Locco isn’t afraid to ask questions. When something happens in the field that he has not witnessed, he will go out to observe it. As a leader, he practices management by walking around, not to micromanage his team but to talk to the staff, get their input and understand what is happening with the system. He believes that being too disconnected from the front lines can put a leader at a disadvantage.

“The water industry tends to be a trial by fire,” he says. “You can learn a lot from textbooks and conference sessions, but you learn the most from just plain experience, being out there in the field and seeing what’s going on.”

Locco encourages team members like water supervisors Peter Nikolica, Tony Johnson and Andrew Dixon, project manager Janice Takahashi and technologist/inspectors Paul Horton and Joe Klander to seek out training. He also brainstorms with them on how to resolve issues, make the system more efficient and improve water quality.

Hamilton offers a strong training program that enables operators to take leadership training courses on subjects such as communication and management. The city also supports staff members who want to pursue outside educational opportunities. The leadership looks to engage the staff in as many projects as possible, fostering innovation and strengthening the workplace culture.

Tackling challenges

Like most cities, Hamilton and its metropolitan area face the issues that come with an aging water infrastructure. With that in mind Locco and his team have been developing a Pressure District Narrative.

One unique challenge is the Niagara Escarpment, which runs from Canada into Pennsylvania. The large elevation difference that the locals refer to as “the mountain” affects distribution system performance. The Pressure District Narrative will serve as a reference manual for all Hamilton Water staff to refer to: plant and distribution operators, project managers and system planners alike. 

The manual will help staff operate the complex water system and deal with the unique complexities of 25 pressure districts. The manual is designed as a resource to support quick and sound decision-making and strategic planning. It also and to provide basic information to help team members respond to public, media and intermunicipal inquiries.

In 2021, the Ontario Water Works Association recognized Locco with its Operator Meritorious Award. “I believe I’ve successfully led projects and led teams, and a lot of my staff members who worked for me have gone on to higher and better positions,” says Locco. “That is the one thing I’m most proud of. It feels good that I had the opportunity to help them grow and learn, to be a coach and mentor to them and to encourage them to take new opportunities, even if it meant I was going to lose them.”

Locco considers working in the water industry to be a rewarding career path, although serving the community comes significant responsibility. When called to shift gears and go where he is needed, he always accepts: Although his title is superintendent of water distribution, he ultimately he works for Hamilton Water and is there to do what’s best for the utility.

His advice to his peers seeking success and enjoyment of their time in the industry: “Be a diligent worker and a straight shooter. Accept that you’re going to ride the difficulties but that there are opportunities everywhere. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you don’t know. In these ways you will always be self-improving on a professional and personal level. That will take you very, very far.”   


Comments on this site are submitted by users and are not endorsed by nor do they reflect the views or opinions of COLE Publishing, Inc. Comments are moderated before being posted.