There's a lot more to Melissa's job than meets the eye. Not only is she testing for the presence of bacteria in the water, but for chemical compounds as well. Every one of the tests she performs must be set up using a highly regulated set of processes to ensure that tests are done in a standardized and accurate manner.
"The best part of my job is getting the opportunity to do different things." Melissa said. "I get to be a biologist, a chemist and a lab technician all at once. It definitely keeps me on my toes and helps me see how everything is interconnected."
In order to ensure safe, clean drinking water for customers, dozens of routine samples are collected weekly from varying points across Padre Dam's service area. These samples are brought to the lab where Melissa and her coworkers analyze them for the presence of different bacteria and chemicals. This work compliments the constant water quality monitoring that takes place in Padre Dam's water distribution system.
In addition to the routine testing of drinking water, Melissa receives samples of water taken from infrastructure that has just undergone construction or repair. Before these components can be reconnected to the drinking water system, Melissa runs tests to make sure that the infrastructure has not been contaminated during construction.
Another important part of Melissa's job is helping to analyze water at several stages of treatment at the Ray Stoyer Water Recycling Facility. This facility is where wastewater is treated to become Title 22 Compliant or "recycled" water, which is used in the purple pipe system for irrigation and to fill Santee Lakes.
"We test proactively and can help operators identify issues before they arise. Our operators can often look at data, see that something is off and correct it before it becomes an issue."
Melissa is a newer employee, and joined the Padre Dam team a year ago. She is especially excited to continue working on the East County Advanced Water Purification Project, although she will have to take a break to welcome her first baby in December.