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TPO Magazine: Land of Opportunity

Joga Chizer Senior Lab Technician Article in TPO

Starting Out as an Immigrant Was Challenging. This Lab Tech Cleared the Hurdles and Found Success.  Joga Chizer came from India and built himself a career as an award-winning lab technician and mentor to his colleagues.  Joga had no kind of background for the clean-water industry. As an immigrant, he wanted a job. He found an opportunity in an interesting field, and he made a career of it.  He’s now the senior lab technician for the Fairfield-Suisun Sewer District in Fairfield, California, and the 2020-21 Laboratory Person of the Year, designated by the California Water Environment Association.

Clearing hurdles
It wasn’t easy getting his start in the profession. Chizer came to the United States from India in 1990 at age 25 with a master’s degree in political science. His only science courses were in high school; he immigrated because he married an American woman. He landed in San Francisco and needed a job because his degree wasn’t useful there.

“I applied to 10 or 12 places for a job, and at that time people were picky,” he recalls. “They were, ‘Oh, you’re new. You don’t have experience.’” A call came early one morning offering an interview as a dishwasher. He thought it was at a restaurant and asked for the address.

“I got there, and it was an analytical lab called Pace,” he says. That was in Novato, California. “They said, ‘We need a dishwasher who can follow the procedures and make sure all the glassware is clean.’” The lead technician, a Russian immigrant, offered to train him when not busy with his primary job, he says.

So Chizer started learning how to measure pH, conductivity and TSS, and do other basic tests. As his ability and eagerness became clear, he learned how to analyze for cyanide, phosphate and other substances. After two years, a chemist who had left the company told him about an opportunity with his organization, Caltest Analytical Lab in Napa, a startup lab with only seven team members where everyone was doing multiple jobs.

“They said, ‘Can you do this? Can you do this?’ I said, ‘You tell me what to do, I’ll do everything.’” And he did: dishwashing, sample pickup, lab work and cleaning and sample preparation for the organic department, such as gas chromatography mass spectrometry analysis. “I said, ‘Train me, I will do it.’ So I was there for 11 years.”

One Caltest client he tested samples for was the Fairfield-Suisun District. At the time, the district’s treatment plant was run by a contractor. Chizer went to work for the contractor in 2003. In 2007, the district took over operation of the lab and hired Chizer. In 2008, the district took over operation of the entire plant.

Recycling water
Inside the plant, after mechanical bar screens and primary clarifiers, the wastewater is sprayed over plastic media in oxidation towers. Intermediate clarifiers settle solids after the oxidation towers while the wastewater flows on to an activated sludge process. Secondary clarifiers are followed by a set of aeration basins for denitrification, and then sand and anthracite filters and UV disinfection (WEDECO).

Some of the effluent is sent into a slough that eventually enters the chain of bays and channels leading to San Francisco Bay. The rest is reused. A sod farm immediately west of the plant receives some of the recycled water, and the city of Fairfield uses it for irrigation.

About five years ago the district outsourced its biosolids handling to Lystek, which takes cake from the gravity belt thickeners and a screw press (FKC Co.) and produces fertilizer for area farms. The average daily flow is 14 to 15 mgd, Chizer says, but in the event of heavy rains and flows, the plant has the capacity to store and process up to 50 mgd. Several large ponds hold influent during heavy rains or when the plant might be temporarily shut down.

Sampling on wheels
Chizer’s job isn’t as complicated as at Caltest because the Fairfield-Suisun lab isn’t set up for complex testing. For example, samples from nearby Travis Air Force Base are sent to Caltest because the samples require expensive, specialized equipment.

The plant itself covers 600 acres. “Every operator has a golf cart,” Chizer says. “Maintenance has golf carts, and the lab has golf carts. We use big jugs — 10-liter, 15-liter, 20-liter jugs. To bring them to the lab you need a cart. And there’s a time limit. You have to be in the lab within 15 minutes of sampling.”

Technicians arrange their routes to meet that limit. It typically takes three trips to collect all the samples. The lab is in the process of meeting the standards formulated by The NELAC Institute (TNI) and adopted by the state of California. “It’s like attention to detail. It’s very interesting,” Chizer says. “The bar is high.” The team has been working on compliance for more than two years, and it will be two more years until they must conform to the standard.

Chizer’s days don’t vary much: “The only thing is, it’s a standing job. You cannot sit. So I compare my lab with the kitchen at home. Even for data entry, I always do it standing up.”

Questioning the status quo
The nomination for his CWEA award was a stabilizing influence during a time of transition. During the pandemic he had a new supervisor, and the question was how to make the lab function under social distancing and other health regulations needed to contain the virus.

Managers considered outsourcing some lab work; Chizer told them that would affect operations. No commercial lab can turn samples around as fast as in-house technicians, so operators couldn’t react as quickly to changes in the plant.

They discussed how to have Chizer and Raymona Shirmard, the other technician, in the same space. “I said, ‘I will have the lab four days all by myself, and she will have the lab three days all by herself, and we will communicate through email and all the other ways.’ And that schedule was pretty much permanently set. We worked one day a week together, Wednesday. We had a one-hour meeting and stayed apart, six, seven, eight feet with masks.”

As he dug into TNI standards, Chizer began questioning the rationale for some of the lab’s work. “I said, ‘When did we have any violation for TSS, ammonia, BOD?’ They figured 900 data points, no violation. I said, ‘Then why are we doing this all the time?’” At district managers’ request, the state agreed to a reduced frequency of once a week for those tests.

Helping others advance
Another reason for his CWEA award was his mentoring of colleagues. “When I studied for the Lab IV exam, I put all the material together from whatever source,” he says. “That could be going to conferences, going to lab meetings or dinner meetings. And whoever I find who’s an expert, I always talk to.

“It took me a year plus to pass this exam. Then I knew everything about the exam: what they’re asking for, how they ask, how they make trick questions.” He saved all the information he had collected and then he began helping others with the exam. He taught five people at the plant, people who had nothing to do with the lab, and they all passed the Grade IV lab exam.
A previous supervisor who had moved to another county needed a Grade IV license to keep her job. Chizer had two three-hour training sessions with her; she also passed. He also guides people who express interest in a wastewater career and is regularly involved in plant tours.

“I tell them do this, take this class. Are you in high school? Are you good at math? Do you want to be an operator? Take this class and look for a job as an operator in training. If someone gets into this industry, no matter what you do, there’s a lot of opportunity to grow.”

Personal time
In his spare time, Chizer watches sports: “You ask me anything about sports, and I’ll have the answer right in front of me.” He doesn’t watch sports popular in India, like cricket or soccer.
“I belonged to a very poor family,” he says. “No matter how cold or hot it was, I never had shoes. I had flip-flops. When they broke, we repaired them. Over here it’s a different story.” In his new country, baseball and football are his favorites, along with basketball.

Chizer agreed that America is a land of opportunity: “When life takes a turn, you have no idea what is going to happen. So you wait for those moments. It’s all in your control. You can say no to anybody. You can say yes to anybody. That’s how much power you have.”

Flexibility includes not letting yourself be controlled. Suppose you are cut off in traffic, he says. “They make you mad, right? You don’t even know the person. You’ve already given control to the person you don’t even know, and you’re upset. Go on with your life.”

Published by David Steinkraus in the July 2022 issue of Treatment Plant Operator


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Daily Republic: BACWA Honors Fairfield-Suisun Sewer District Sewer Lab Manager

Nicole Van Aken DP article

FAIRFIELD — The lab manager at the Fairfield-Suisun Sewer District has been recognized with an award of excellence by the Bay Area Clean Water Agencies.

Nicole Van Aken, of Fairfield, has received the Arleen Navarret Award, created in honor of Navarret and her dedication to improving the health of the San Francisco Bay.

“Nicole is incredibly smart, thoughtful, and proactive, and we are very proud to have her on our team,” district General Manager Talyon Sortor said in a statement announcing the award. “Her commitment to the environment and to organizational excellence is truly exceptional, and this award is well-deserved.”

The Bay Area Clean Water Agencies is a joint powers agency formed by wastewater treatment agencies throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. Members include municipalities and special districts that provide sanitary sewer services to more than 7.1 million people.

The Fairfield-Suisun district, which provides service to the two cities and some isolated areas outside the city boundaries, is a member of BAWCA.

By Daily Republic Staff
Printed in the July 3, 2022 Edition

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California’s Water Professionals Appreciation Week, October 2 to 10

Proclamation – Water Professionals Appreciation Week sm

Fairfield-Suisun Sewer District Recognizes Careers in the Water Industry During California’s Water Professionals Appreciation Week, October 2 to 10

September 29, 2021:  As part of California’s fourth annual Water Professionals Appreciation Week, the Fairfield-Suisun Sewer District recognizes the wastewater workers who help ensure that California’s water supplies are cleaned and protected. As front-line workers in public health, dedicated water professionals are now more critical than ever.

Water Professionals Appreciation Week was established in 2017 by Senate Concurrent Resolution 80, by Sen. Bill Dodd (D-Napa). Recent labor studies estimate that 60,000 people work in California’s water industry and roughly 6,000 new employees are needed each year due to turnover. The water industry offers a wide variety of rewarding career opportunities in engineering, biology, finance, business administration, law, communications and many more types of positions in high-demand occupations.

The measure was sponsored by a coalition of water associations led by the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA) and including WateReuse California, California Municipal Utilities Association, California Association of Sanitation Agencies, and the California Water Environment Association. Under SCR 80, the annually designated week begins on the first Saturday of October and ends on the Sunday of the following weekend.

To arrange a media interview with one of Fairfield-Suisun Sewer District’s water professionals or for visuals of District facilities or operations, please visit the District website:

Talyon Sortor – Fairfield-Suisun Sewer District General Manager

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Fairfield operation lifts veil on first-of-its-kind sewage-to-fertilizer process

Click image to view video
Clink to view video of FSSD-Lystek partnership

Jim Dunbar, general manager and business development manager for Lystek, describes the company’s process for turning treated sewage from the Fairfield-Suisun Sewer District plant into fertilizer for use by farmers, during a tour of the company’s operations, Friday, Oct. 21, 2016. (Glen Faison/Daily Republic) .

FAIRFIELD — Officials from the Fairfield-Suisun Sewer District and Canadian company Lystek pulled the curtain back Friday on a first-of-its-kind process for turning treated sewage into a marketable product – all while helping the environment.

It’s a process that proves the saying that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

The company is taking the district’s treated sewage and turning it into high-grade fertilizer that can be customized to meet the needs of farmers. The technology to do so did not exist in California or anywhere else in the United States prior to the Fairfield project, company officials said.

Mayor Harry Price and other officials spoke of the need for agencies across the state to limit the amount of treated sewage that’s sent to municipal dumps for disposal.

That practice releases greenhouse gases as the biosolids are exposed to air once spread for disposal – pollution that’s eliminated in the closed loop that’s part of Lystek’s process.

“This is a bold adventure,” Price said of the Lystek plant and what the company and the sewer district hope to accomplish.

The new Fairfield plant offers a regional fix for a pollution problem that the state’s aggressively trying to corral through the legislative process.

“This is a solution that’s been talked about here in the Bay Area for 10 years,” said Jim Dunbar, general manager and business development manager for the new Lystek plant. “It’s really one of the first steps of getting high-level biosolids out of landfills.”

Not only is the company taking advantage of the latest technology to eliminate the need for the sewer district to stop sending treated sludge to Potrero Hills Landfill, Price said the company’s activities will boost economic development activities as well.

“This is going to encourage more companies to locate here, and not just food service and beverages,” he said. “Pharmaceuticals as well.”

The sewer district serves residents of both Fairfield and Suisun City. City council members from both communities serve as the sewer district’s board of directors.

Kevin Litwiller, director of business development for Lystek, described key benefits of the project that include conversion of treated biosolids to a type of fertilizer that’s cleared by the government for use year-round in agricultural operations; and the ability to create and to capture gasses that can be used to produce green energy to help meet the sewer district’s power needs.

Litwiller said the company’s process is both mundane and special at the same time.

“Each level of our process is not remarkable,” he said. “But taken together we have a process that’s led to nine patents.”

Supervisor Jim Spering said the Lystek process takes care of what he describes as a major local biosolids problem for both Fairfield and Suisun City, though use of “trusted technology.”

“I think this starts to address a very serious byproduct of a plant like we have here,” Spering said, making reference to the sewer district’s operations.

Assemblyman Bill Dodd, D-Napa, spoke of the environmental requirements of legislation passed over the course of the past two years, such as Assembly Bill 1826, which became law in 2014. These new laws are restricting disposal of organic waste in city and county dumps. Dodd also spoke of how the project came together.

“This is an amazing public-private partnership,” he said.

The process to develop the partnership between the sewer district and the company began in late 2013 and took off in early 2014. Dunbar said Lystek was looking to enter the California market, and that the local sewer district’s reputation as an innovative operation was attractive to the company.

About a year of negotiations led to an agreement last summer, which triggered the required permitting process. Also included was a retrofit of a building on the sewer district’s property to accommodate the company’s equipment and state-of-the-art operations.

The agreement grants Lystek virtually all of the sewer district’s treated sludge for 20 years, with an option to extend the agreement for another 10 years.

Dunbar said the company can easily handle all of the sewer district’s outflow – about 14,000 tons per year. The Lystek plant’s capacity is 150,000 tons per year, he said, which will be met by bringing in waste from other agencies across the Bay Area.

Contracts are already in place to take in and process treated waste from Santa Rosa and from the Central Marin Sanitation Agency.

Local officials like what they see.

“I think it’s got a good future,” Spering said. “I’m very impressed with the whole concept of dealing with solid waste.”

Reach Glen Faison at 427-6925 or Follow him on Twitter at

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Eighth-graders gets hands-on career exploration in Suisun


Dover Academy for International Studies eighth-grader Jordan Carabajal, left, screen prints a shirt with the help of Charles McCullar, of Front 2 Back Designs, at the Inspire: Dreams Start Now Interactive Career Fair at the Suisun City Kroc Center on Tuesday. (Robinson Kuntz/Daily Republic)

SUISUN CITY — Leslie Ruelas, an eighth-grader at the Public Safety Academy, got to sample life as a screen printer Tuesday morning at the second annual Inspire: Dreams Start Now Interactive Career Fair at the Kroc Center.  The event, a partnership between the Kroc Center, Fairfield-Suisun School District, the Fairfield-Suisun Chamber of Commerce and the cities of Fairfield and Suisun City, is open to eighth-graders. More than 1,600 students were expected to attend.  With assistance from Charles McCullar, owner of Front2Back Designs, Ruelas created her own souvenir, a white T-shirt with a logo for the event designed by McCullar.  Prior to putting the shirt on the screen printer, Ruelas said she learned how much pressure it takes to get the design on the shirt and how to work with multiple colors.  “They don’t learn this all at one time,” she said.  Ruelas, a self-described art lover, said she could she herself in the business. She’s not ready to decide yet because she also has a passion for nursing and law enforcement.  Front2Back Designs gave out 200 T-shirts last year at the career fair. The company was on track early Tuesday morning to meet that number.  Dionne McCullar said the students’ enthusiasm was obvious.  “This shows them different options and avenues,” she said.

A few booths away, fellow PSA student George Estes listened as Alex Haynes, co-owner of A Squared, a video production and marketing company, talked about his work and showed off some cinematic lenses.  Estes said he would like to get into film as a career. He and his fellow students make their own videos now for class projects.  Haynes saw his role Tuesday to inspire and encourage youth to think outside the box. It was also a chance to give back to the community that helped him and co-owner Alex Quinn launch their company.  “As a kid I wanted to be an actor,” Haynes said. “My parents told me, ‘no.’ ”  He’s now found his passion behind the camera, not in front of it.

Leon Ingram, from the David Weir Preparatory Academy, dreams of playing for the Chicago Bulls one day. Tuesday he learned about working at the Fairfield-Suisun Sewer District.  Meg Herston, an environmental compliance engineer, and Nellie Dimalanta, a geographic information system technician, demonstrated, with help from the students, what happens to items flushed down drains.  Ingram poured the ammonia for the demonstration.  With a miniature model of a clarifier, the students watched the oil and grease stay on top, the heavier items go to the bottom and the clean water remain in the middle.

Debi Tavey, president of the Fairfield-Suisun Chamber of Commerce, said the event makes her feel good about the future.  “They are so interested in the businesses here,” Tavey said of the students.

Jerome Spaulding, who teaches at Oakbrook Elementary, was impressed with an addition this year – a passport to help the students explore the fields that interest them based on personality questions.  “They can learn a lot about of variety of jobs that fit their personality and desire,” Spaulding said.

Reach Amy Maginnis-Honey at 427-6957 or Follow her on Twitter at

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Fairfield-Suisun Sewer District earns praise as a ‘utility of the future’


Fairfield-Suisun Sewer District Wastewater Treatment Plant.  The district was named “utility of the future” by various environmental and research groups. (Robinson Kuntz/Daily Republic file)

FAIRFIELD — National recognition for the Fairfield-Suisun Sewer District as a “utility of the future” came from a program that marks exceptional performance of the nation’s wastewater utilities, the sewer district said Tuesday.

“The Fairfield-Suisun Sewer District is once again being recognized for its exceptional service to the community and its strategies to move the agency into the future,” said Chuck Timm, president of the board of directors for the district, in a press release. “The staff and the board remain committed to excellence, protecting public health and the environment through innovative, award-winning and efficient performance.
The National Association of Clean Water Agencies, the Water Environment Federation, the Water Environment Research Foundation and WateReuse, with support from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, established a Utility of the Future program in 2016.
The district received its recognition during the annual Water Environment Federation conference.
“The district is always looking for opportunities to provide better service to its customers while remaining exemplary stewards of the environment,” said the district’s general manager, Greg Baatrup, in the release. “It is an honor to receive this national recognition in acknowledgement of the district’s successes toward implementing its progressive strategy.”
California’s Legislature created the Fairfield-Suisun Sewer District in 1951 for wastewater collection and treatment in Fairfield, Suisun City and Travis Air Force Base. City Council members of Fairfield and Suisun City serve as directors.
Reach Ryan McCarthy at 427-6935 or





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Daily Republic: Earth Day brings visitors to 2-city treatment plant

FSSD Open House Daily Republic post 4/24/2016

Talyon Sortor, right, assistant general manager for the Fairfield-Suisun Sewer District, gives a tour of the Wastewater Treatment Plant during an open house to commemorate Earth Day, Saturday. Chuck Timm, Fairfield’s vice mayor, is shown on the left. (Robinson Kuntz/Daily Republic)

FAIRFIELD — Earth Day got celebrated in many ways this weekend with a cleanup in the Suisun Marsh and along area creeks, events at the Civic Center Park and a tour of the Fairfield-Suisun Sewer District’s treatment plant.

The plant serves 135,000 residents in the Suisun City and Fairfield area. The amount of wastewater from homes, businesses and commercial users traditionally adds up to about 15 million gallons per day going through the system, but that’s not currently the case.

“It has actually gone down over the last year to about 11 million gallons per day,” said Helen Gaumann, director of administrative services. “That is because of the drought.”

While the plant serves everyone who lives and works in the two cities, its out-of-the-way location on Chanbourne Road gives it an out-of-sight, out-of-mind kind of existence. That’s something plant officials and staff sought to counter on a day set aside to bring awareness to the health of the planet.
“This is the first time we have had a grand opening tour of the plant for Earth Day,” said General Manager Greg Baatrup. “We wanted to get the public out so that they can see what we do.”

Baatrup has worked for nine years at the plant and said he loves his job. The Fairfield-Suisun Sewer District has been a local provider of steady work for many of the employees who can say that they have worked at the plant since getting out of college.

“I have been here 20 years and done probably every job imaginable,” Assistant General Manager Talyon Sortor said.

The plant is situated on several acres of grassy plain near the Suisun Marsh.

“People came out today to learn about what happens here,” Baatrup said. “I am really pleased how many people have come out.”

In addition to the sewer tour, plant workers also hosted a booth at the Fairfield Civic Center for the city’s Earth Day activities and went out for cleanup activities in Fairfield and Suisun City. Back at the plant, they offered visitors refreshments and drinks.

Robin and Mike Westfall of Fairfield have been residents since 1975 and have done tours of the Jelly Belly factory and Anheuser-Busch brewery, but this was their visit to the treatment plant.

“It was a first-class operation,” said Mike Westfall. “It’s good to know instead of using chlorine they are using UV lights. It’s safer and not a target for terrorists.”

The wastewater disposal plant discontinued using chlorine because of safety issues for storage but also because releasing the treated wastewater into the marshlands with chlorine could harm the marsh, Sortor said.

“It’s good to know they are protecting the marsh,” said Robin Westfall.

Article by Susan Hiland, Daily Republic

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Students Explore, Learn About Wetland Ecology

SUISUN CITY — Nearly 1,300 middle school students will explore one of the last intact wetlands in the Bay Area as part of the 2015 Suisun Marsh Watershed Program.

About half of the sixth- and seventh-graders who are participating have already experienced the daylong field trip to the Solano Land Trust’s Rush Ranch – with another 600 students scheduled to participate next month.

A major goal of the program is for as many students as possible to participate, said program Coordinator Marianne Butler, education program manager for the Solano Resource Conservation District.

The free program includes in-class lessons about marsh and watershed ecology, leading up to the field trip to explore part of the largest contiguous brackish tidal marshes remaining on the West Coast, according to a district press release. Students hike through the wetlands and study the soil, water and plants there.

In the day’s final activity, participants hike to Overlook Hill and write poems about their experience, which their teachers submit to the River of Words International art and poetry contest. Back in their classrooms, students complete additional lessons covering the problems and solutions to ocean debris and water conservation.

The program’s five in-class lessons instruct students about the marsh’s ecosystem and its role in the larger watershed habitat. Program educators tie the ecology and health of the marsh to the student’s own lives, building understanding of the interconnection of all life in a watershed, according to the district release.

The Rush Ranch open space is a working cattle ranch, which serves as a living laboratory for participants. Students see wildlife coexisting with domestic animals in a well-managed environment, on a 1,050-acre property that represents more than 10 percent of the remaining wetland area in California, according to the district.

The eight-year-old program was developed by the Solano and Suisun resource conservation districts and is funded by the Solano County Water Agency, along with a State Parks Habitat Conservation Fund grant, which is in its final of four program years.

The funding is augmented by a two-year grant from the Benicia Sustainability Commission, and a small amount of funding from a CalRecycle Grant to Solano County. Additional funding support for busing is provided by the Fairfield Suisun Sewer District.

When completed, more than 10,000 children will have taken field trips to explore county open space in a hands-on program that aligns with state standards and addresses local concerns, the district said.

Reach Kevin W. Green at 427-6974 or kgreen@dailyrepublic.


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For the Love of Wastewater: Operator Powers Career With Passion

Ben Carver builds an award-winning career at Fairfield-Suisun Sewer District by learning the business, enhancing his skills and training other operators and technicians.

ben_carver_057__mediumBen Carver loves the wastewater industry. As an operator/maintenance technician 5 at the Fairfield-Suisun Sewer District in California, Carver is focused on expanding his knowledge while helping fellow operators develop the skills they need to advance their careers.

After just nine years in the business, Carver has parlayed his passion for wastewater into a senior role at the district’s 23.7 mgd (design) advanced secondary wastewater treatment plant. Sited on 300 acres, the facility operates under reduced flow (14 mgd) due to California’s five-year drought, water conservation measures and the San Francisco Bay Area’s economic doldrums.

Carver, a Fairfield native, is serious about his role in producing clean water for the 41-square-mile area of Solano County that comprises the sewer district. It includes the cities of Fairfield (population 108,000) and Suisun City (28,000) as well as Travis Air Force Base.

Recognizing passion

Beyond kudos from colleagues and supervisors for his dedication to training new and mid-level operations and maintenance technicians, Carver has gained broader recognition. In 2014, he received the Plant Operator of the Year award from the 9,000-member California Water Environment Association (CWEA). Earlier in the year, he won the same award for the CWEA’s Redwood Empire Section.

“It’s nice to have a career filled with accomplishments,” says Carver. “But I can’t take all the credit because it’s really a team effort. Much of the success I’ve had is based on the great people I work with. All 58 sewer district employees, including our 14 treatment plant operators, function as a team to achieve great results for the community, so it’s everybody’s award.”

That assessment draws some pushback from Brian Hawley, operations manager and Carver’s boss for the past six-plus years: “Ben is the new model of an operator. He’s passionate about the wastewater field and our commitment to protect the public and the environment. He’s technically savvy and eager to learn new technologies.”

Early interest

ben_carver_069__largeCarver’s interest in wastewater began when he was 15 and trying to figure out what to do with his life. A family friend who worked for the City of Fairfield Water Department described life at the water plant, leading Carver to look at classes at Solano Community College. The first one he found happened to be about wastewater, so he enrolled and decided to make it his career.

At 18, he volunteered at the Fairfield-Suisun Treatment Plant. After graduating from Vacaville High School in 2005, he landed a job at the plant with contractor United Water. In July 2008 he joined the sewer district, where he has made professional development a priority. From then on, every year, he has advanced his state certification, starting with an operator in training certificate and culminating with Grade V in 2011.

“Wastewater is a wonderful career,” Carver says. “It’s rewarding and something that keeps me constantly motivated. The fact that I always learn something new is one of the big blessings of this profession. I’m never bored, because my job changes all the time. Plus, I’m able to support my family, and there are plenty of opportunities for advancement, so yes, I like what I’m doing a lot.”

Expansion challenges

Almost from the day Carver arrived, the 40-year-old treatment plant has undergone expansions. In 2007-08, a secondary treatment expansion added a biological nutrient removal (BNR) system. The plant converted its old aerobic digesters to aeration basins with anoxic zones, built two new circular clarifiers, and converted a flow equalization tank to an intermediate clarifier.

Another project was a dewatering upgrade in which Carver and his colleagues replaced old filter presses with a screw press (FKC Co.), replaced two dissolved air flotation thickening tanks with gravity belt thickeners, and built a circular primary clarifier to add capacity to four existing rectangular clarifiers. In 2011, the plant switched from chlorine to UV disinfection (WEDECO – a Xylem Brand).

Crews also built a new alternate discharge pump station for discharging effluent to the Suisun Marsh, the largest contiguous brackish-water marsh remaining on the west coast of North America and a critical component of the 116,000-acre San Francisco Bay Delta estuary ecosystem.

Supervising, training

A typical day for Carver runs from 6 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Each day is different, but he usually supervises the morning meetings and briefings from graveyard shift operators, checks the duties for the day, and assigns tasks. Carver supervises the lower-level technicians and provides training when needed.

Training covers wastewater treatment processes, equipment handling, plant maintenance and other aspects of the job, such as maintaining the district’s four main pump stations that deliver wastewater into the plant, nine lift stations and eight stormwater stations throughout the area.

Gary Crawford, a Grade III operator, can attest to Carver’s training expertise. A five-year plant veteran, Crawford came from an academic background and pursued a career at the university level. “The money wasn’t that good and the jobs just weren’t that plentiful, so I made a financial decision not to spend time trying to get published and get tenure for a small salary. I have a wife and wanted to earn a decent living.”

Crawford didn’t know much about wastewater, so Carver trained him, starting with basic treatment procedures and eventually preparing him for certification exams. “Every time I’ve had to take one, I hook up with Ben and we go over the math work,” Crawford says. “Then he walks me through what I need to know. He’s been an enormous help, for the tests and in becoming a skilled operator.”

Hawley praises Carver for making sure the other operators are moving up in their certifications: “Of the 14 operators we have, all but one are Grade III and above. There are five of us with Grade V certification, so we have a highly certified staff.”

Proud to protect

Carver has little time for accolades. He’s too busy doing his job: leading the operations team members as they work on the oxidation towers and dual-media tertiary filtration system, and making sure the solids dewatering processes — screw press and asphalt-lined drying beds — function properly to generate 7 to 8 dry tons of biosolids daily.

He also helps conduct plant tours for elementary, high school and college students, promoting the satisfaction he feels from protecting the area’s fragile ecosystems. That includes reclaiming 10 percent of plant effluent to irrigate turf farms or livestock feed and to replenish ponds for local duck clubs.

Looking ahead, the treatment plant faces stricter nutrient limits from the Regional Water Quality Control Board and the U.S. EPA. Carver relishes the challenge as he continues to improve his skills and look for ways to improve plant operations and efficiency.

“There’s no question that all the plants, including ours, are going to see much stricter limits on nutrients,” he says. “We’re already doing full nitrification and partial nitrogen removal, so we’re a little bit ahead of some plants. As for me, I enjoy my work enough that I’ll keep doing it. In this industry there are so many different avenues to pursue. I’ll stick with it for the rest of my career.”

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Fairfield-Suisun Sewer District Board Approves Agreement to Proceed with Development of a Lystek Organic Materials Recovery Center (OMRC)

Attention: Business, economic, agriculture and environmental reporters/editors

May 19 2015 (Fairfield, California, U.S.A.) – Yesterday, staff of the Fairfield-Suisun Sewer District (FSSD) recommended, and the Board of Directors accepted, the approval of a Resolution to execute a 20-year lease agreement (with an additional 10-year optional renewal) between the FSSD and Lystek International Inc. (Lystek) for the development of an Organic Materials Recovery Center at its Chadbourne Road facility in Fairfield California. The major terms and conditions of the Agreement are effectively complete and both parties look forward to proceeding with project implementation.

“This is an exciting day for all stakeholders”, said Rick Mosher, President of Lystek. “Approval by the Board to move this project forward is the culmination of months of positive discussion and careful consideration of the many, mutual benefits that will be realized by everyone involved in this development. This includes the FSSD, all surrounding communities looking for advanced and proven, Class A quality biosolids and organics management solutions, growers that want/need good, affordable, nutrient rich, bio-fertilizer products as well as those looking for good-paying jobs in the area “, he adds.

It is widely acknowledged that “waste” diversion and resource recovery generate substantial economic and environmental benefits while supporting and expanding the evolution towards a circular economy.

Founded in 2000, Lystek is an award-winning, biosolids and organics management firm that is playing a leadership role in the successful diversion of organic materials from landfills. The firm provides proven solutions that help municipalities and other generators harness “waste” as an economic resource thereby converting wastewater treatment plants into Resource Recovery Centers. This is accomplished by transforming these materials into an organically-based, bio-fertilizer product called LysteGro. The resulting, high nutrient product is pathogen-free and it meets (or exceeds) US EPA, Class A EQ quality standards. LysteGro is already in high demand because pathogens are eliminated and the product is high in nutrients and organic matter and far more cost effective than chemical alternatives. The same, innovative system can also be used to optimize the performance of digesters and BNR systems, while reducing overall volumes and increasing biogas production for green energy. The OMRC will be built under a Design-Build-Finance-Own-Operate (DBFOO) model by Lystek.

FSSD currently produces approximately 12,000 tons of biosolids per year. Under this agreement, the district will have long-term control over its biosolids management expenses. Revenue and expenses will be proportional to the volume of material processed at the OMRC, which will have a maximum operating capacity of approximately 150,000 tons per year. FSSD biosolids management expenses will effectively be capped (except for growth and small, consumer price index increases) with revenues growing as more material is brought into the new facility. Indirect benefits will also be realized by FSSD through the process 2 of re-feeding “LysteMized” material back into its digesters to enhance biogas production for “green energy”) and through reduction in the overall volume of output.

Under the terms of the agreement, Lystek will be responsible for soliciting third party materials to be processed at the new facility as well as all marketing and sales of the LysteGro bio-fertilizer product. As of the issuance of this release, Letters of Interest (LOI’s) have already been secured from several agencies in the Bay Area. Additional LOI’s are forthcoming. These LOI’s are expected to transition into multi-year contracts as the project moves forward.

Greg Baatrup, General Manager of the FSSD states that “This technology is proven and development of this project and facility will play an important role in capping the FSSD’s operational expenses related to biosolids management. It will also help us diversify and achieve our goal of leveraging existing, underutilized infrastructure to generate additional revenues, further offsetting costs for the district.”

“The FSSD Board of Directors is extremely proud of the track record of success at the FSSD and pleased with staff accomplishments “ said Pete Sanchez, President of the FSSD Board of Directors. “We look forward to the positive benefits this partnership with Lystek brings to the communities of Fairfield, Suisun City, Solano County and the entire Bay Area,” he adds.

About Lystek International

Lystek International Inc. is an organic materials recovery firm that is helping municipalities and other generators reduce waste, costs, odors and greenhouse gas emissions through its innovative approach to biosolids and organics management. The multi-use Lystek system can be leveraged to optimize digesters and biological nutrient removal systems while also contributing to landfill diversion and agricultural sustainability. This is achieved by transforming non-hazardous, organic materials into nutrient-rich, federally-registered fertilizers and other, multi-purpose products.

For more information please contact Kevin Litwiller, Director of Business Development, at; Cell: (519) 584- 5437 or Office: (226) 444-0186 x 106 or by email at;

Fairfield-Suisun Sewer District

The Fairfield-Suisun Sewer District is a legally constituted governmental entity established to provide wastewater services to the Cities of Fairfield and Suisun City. FSSD serves more than 135,000 residential, commercial and industrial customers and government agencies in central Solano County, about 40 miles northeast of San Francisco. Households, retail businesses, major food and beverage producers, light industries, manufacturers and vital military operations depend upon our service. The treatment plant occupies about 150 acres. It draws from a collection system that consists of 12 pump stations and a 70- mile network of sewers that fan out throughout our service area.

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