TEAMSTER: Ray Wolfgramm
Worksite: Calera Creek Water Recycling Plant, Pacifica
Years on the job: 29
Job title: Lead Operator
How he got started: "That's a funny story. I don't think most people–unless maybe they're family or someone's into it–say 'I want to be a wastewater operator.' It was just chance. I was in construction for about six years and someone told me about this opportunity. I wasn't really too keen on it. First of all, I was making 20 bucks an hour as a carpenter and I was going to start at $11.99 an hour. But knowing what it was to work for the city have all those benefits, my health, medical, paid vacation, and coming from construction where you just go from job to job with not much stability, I thought, well, I'm going to give it a shot. I can always go back to being a carpenter. But I got into it, and it was definitely one of the best things I ever did."
High level of skills required: "You've got to take these state exams, they're grade one through grade five in wastewater. The first couple, they're not too bad, but once you start getting into the four and five, they're pretty difficult tests to pass. I start prepping six months in advance and then I take a week off before the test and just lock myself in my camper to study and only come out for lunch. It's biology, it's crazy math–one question a whole page of formulas to get an answer. Just about all of us are grade five. It's a big deal when you pass."
What the public should know about wastewater: "The treatment plant's basically like a giant living organism. It needs to go to the bathroom, just like we do. It's just like a person, and that's what most people on the outside don't get. It's not like a 9 to 5 job, this needs to be taken care of kind of like a baby, 24 hours a day."
What separates Calera Creek: "Our treatment plant is pretty unique. There's actually only a few nationwide–and none in Northern California–that treats wastewater the way we do. We actually recycle a portion of our water. I’m actually a surfer and where we discharge, into this creek, it goes a quarter mile and dumps right on the beach at Rockaway Beach–one of my favorite surf spots. I’m basically surfing on my effluent all the time. I feel very proud that I know what’s going into our water is almost drinking water quality."
On being a Teamster: "We're a real small unit here and we're kind of like family. These guys, half of them I've worked with for 30 years. I take pride in what we do. It's very good quality and we're really doing a great job."