Water Heroes Recognized for Going Above and Beyond

The Water Environment Federation recently announced the 2021 WEF Awards recipients for individuals and organizations that have made outstanding contributions to the sustainability of water resources and made a profound impact on the future of the water profession. 

Among the winners were four municipalities and individuals recognized as Water Heroes Award recipients for performing duties above and beyond the usual call of duty during an emergency to continue to protect the public and the environment.

The Water Heroes Award winners were the Contra Costa (California) Water District; Chesterfield County (Virginia) Department of Utilities; Clackamas Water Environment Services of Oregon City, Oregon; and Carlos Aldape and Johnathon Truong of the Watershed Protection Program for the City of Los Angeles, Department of Public Works and Bureau of Sanitation.

Contra Costa — In November 2020, a landslide occurred on a downslope canal embankment within the Contra Costa Water District service area. CCWD mobilized a dive inspection which identified extensive cracking in the concrete liner that was causing saturation of the hillside embankment. If left unaddressed, the landslide would worsen and potentially breach the canal. Extensive crack repairs were completed during the week of Thanksgiving to temporarily patch the damaged canal liner panels until a permanent repair was implemented. CCWD successfully completed these improvements and returned the canal to service in March 2021. 

Chesterfield County — On Aug. 15, 2020, severe localized stormwater flooding in Chesterfield County prompted a state of emergency declaration, as well as loss of electrical power and evacuation of the water resource recovery facility serving the area. The SCADA systems for the WRRF and its distribution system were rendered inoperable. Six county staff members manually operated the distribution system to ensure no loss of service or pressure throughout the system, stationed at critical pump stations for 72 hours until the computer servers could be restored.

Clackamas Water Environment Services In one of the worst ice storms in memory for Clackamas County, which took place Feb. 12-23, Clackamas Water Environment Services staff rallied through power loss and icy conditions to maintain wastewater service for over 190,000 people. Staff responded to over 1,000 alarms, working around the clock to keep facilities and pump stations running. During this extraordinary event, there was not a single bypass, no sanitary sewer overflows, no NPDES permit violations, nor a single compliance sample missed. 

Johnathon Truong and Carlos Aldape Truong and Aldape are part of the Pollution Assessment Section of the Los Angeles Department of Public Works’ Watershed Protection Division. Truong and Aldape were assigned together on a regular field run to program and check the status of an automatic water sampler at a drain site before an upcoming storm. Upon arrival, they noticed an individual at the center of the filled drain struggling to stay afloat. They called out to the person in the water and when they received no response, Aldape proceeded to call 911, while Truong went closer to assess the situation. After realizing that the man in the water was staying below for longer periods of time and struggling, Truong went into the drain to bring the man ashore. Aldape and a civilian showed up soon after to help completely pull both individuals out of the water.


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