When California Water Service Company’s (Cal Water) Hawthorne Treatment Plant team received word that manganese levels in their discharged water exceeded the permitted 50 micrograms per liter, they knew they had a problem. Firmly committed to Cal Water’s best management practices and environmental stewardship, the team rallied to find a solution.

Director of Environmental Health Dale Gonzales, along with Environmental Health Program Manager Allyson Clark and Water Resource Manager Ron Sorensen, quickly found a viable answer in a drum filled with greensand to filter out the excess manganese.

“The clock was ticking, and we didn’t have time to bring in an outside firm to solve the problem,” said Sorensen, who conceptualized the drum. “I knew if we handled this issue internally and repurposed materials we had onsite, we could custom engineer a solution that would immediately fit our needs.”

Once the plan was in place, Hawthorne Superintendent Richard Garcia and Treatment Plant Operators Alex Ron and John Fortin gathered the materials, built and then installed the drum.

According to Clark, using an outside engineering firm to design and build a solution would have cost Cal Water as much as $200,000 or thousands of dollars more than the actual cost.

In addition to the financial benefit and positive environmental impact, the project also brought the Hawthorne team even closer.

“This project has reinforced the strong team morale we’ve always had within the Hawthorne system and challenged us to think outside of the box,” said Garcia. “Our collaborative thought-processes resulted in a system that was not elaborate and allowed us to use existing resources within the district to overcome an obstacle.”

When asked about replicating this problem-solving process in other districts, Gonzales concluded, “We have knowledgeable and experienced people at Cal Water. Our employees can make a big difference when we work as a team and use the resources available to us to achieve cost-effective solutions.”

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