Liquid News

IRWD Employee Marks 30 Years with the District

Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator Integral Member of the Team

One of the Irvine Ranch Water District’s greatest resources are its employees.  And the District is proud of the longevity among its workforce. Six employees will reach a 30-year milestone of employment with the District this year – one of them is Joe Breiter.

“Thirty years ago, it never occurred to me I would be here this long,” Breiter, an operator at the Michelson Water Recycling Plant, said. “I was just out of the Army and looking for full-time work.”

He didn’t know a thing about wastewater treatment, but applied for a job with IRWD after a friend advised him of an opening at the plant. He was interviewed, but the job was given to someone else. Six months later, he was about to re-enlist in the Army so he could attend language school, when he received a telephone call from the District.

“It was a life-changing call, because it was IRWD offering me the job I had interviewed for originally,” he said.

For all 30 years of his IRWD career, Breiter has worked in wastewater treatment. When he was hired in 1981, there were three shifts working at the Michelson plant. Emerging computer technology eventually rendered three shifts unnecessary, Breiter said. Stand-by plant operators could respond to problems at the plant from home with the click of a mouse.

Over the years, Breiter attended school and received all of the training and certificates.  He became active in the Santa Ana River Basin division of the California Water Environmental Association (SARBS). He worked his way up the board of directors of SARBS and served is its president in 2006.

Breiter has been on hand to see many plant upgrades to increase capacity of wastewater treatment to recycled water.  In 2006, construction was begun on a circular clarifier that would add the ability of treating up to five million gallons of wastewater per day. In 2009, a massive expansion of the plant began to increase capacity to 28 million gallons per day.

In his position as an “Operator III,” Breiter is responsible for all aspects of the treatment processes required to operate the plant efficiently. He performs daily equipment inspections and monitors conditions in the various steps of the process of converting wastewater to recycled water. In addition, he serves on the District Hazardous Materials Response Team, which responds to emergency situations including chemical spills. He takes readings from meters and gauges and makes appropriate calculations. All operators must continually stay abreast of any changing state and federal regulations and take training as needed.

Breiter is a native of Southern California who entered the Army following high school. It was while he was stationed in the Canal Zone in Panama City that he honed his skills as a photographer, a hobby he had since his school days. At IRWD, Breiter has often been called upon to photograph District events. His photos - especially the one of the iconic windmill at sunrise- have graced many IRWD publications. He found the ideal spot to use his talents – the San Joaquin Marsh.

 In the lobby of the IRWD Sand Canyon headquarters hangs a photo of six black skimmer birds gliding over a pond in the marsh. In 1998, Breiter entered that photo into the Nikon Photo Contest International. He won $300 and his photo was chosen out of 25,000 entries from all over the world to appear in Nikon’s 2000 calendar.

 Many of Breiter’s photos appear on our website.

Joe Breiter, a 30-year employee, works at the Michelson Water Recycling Plant.

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