SAM employee is wastewater “Person of the Year”

By on Sat, February 27, 2010

Patrick (Pat) R. McGowan, with a 26-year career as a wastewater professional and member of the collections system team at Sewer Authority Mid-Coastside (SAM), has been awarded “Collection System Person of the Year” by the California Water Environment Association (CWEA) Santa Clara Valley section.  
McGowan, reputed for being the “first in and out of the mud,” was chosen from a select group of colleagues from across California. He was recognized by Darren Greenwood, president of CWEA, who travelled to Half Moon Bay to present this prestigious award to Pat as a special order of the day during SAM’s recent Board of Directors meeting held February 22nd. “Pat is a wonderful dedicated employee who is reliable, dependable and shares his valuable knowledge with his peers. We are proud to have him working for SAM,” said Marina Fraser, SAM chair. 

Criteria evaluated to present the award to McGowan included education, industry certification, experience, significant accomplishments, industry association and community involvement.  The award is given at the regional level, and recipients of this honor advance as contenders at the state level who will be awarded on April 23, 2010 in Sacramento. 
The CWEA award is one in 20 categories bestowed annually to recognize exceptional California wastewater professionals, facilities and/or agencies. In addition to acknowledging outstanding achievements within the wastewater field, their recognition program also seeks to improve the professional status of all wastewater and related industry personnel, and elevate public awareness of the importance of wastewater treatment to public health and the water environment.
McGowan began his career at SAM in September of 1983 and currently holds the position of Lead Collections Maintenance Worker.   Described by his peers as having an ‘admirable work ethic and committed passion for protecting the environment,’ McGowan’s attentive can-do attitude has transcended to those around him under both normal to challenging circumstances. During his 26-year tenure, he has trained more than 16 collection systems team members employed by SAM.  “Pat has successfully mentored each of them through a steep learning curve, and has been a positive hard-working role model for the less-tenured in our operation,” said Tony Pullin, technical services supervisor.  “Pat’s a steady rock that many on the SAM staff rely upon for motivation and support when the days get long and the weather is not cooperating,” adds fellow colleague and plant operator Tim Costello.  In their travels, coastsiders can usually see Pat behind the wheel of SAM’s flusher truck with all of its ‘bells and whistles’ which he proudly operates in sourcing out blockages in hard-to-reach easement lines to prevent overflows.                       
McGowan’s keen and extensive knowledge of the coastside’s pipeline collection system has led to many intelligent solutions to current operations at the plant.  He has also routinely provided insight on many long-term capital improvement projects.  “Pat’s ability to quickly and appropriately diagnose and respond to a situation, and take leadership in maintaining a sound community-wide system has been an invaluable asset to SAM and its member agencies,” said Jack Foley, manager.  Moreover, his astute technical acumen coupled with his dedication to preventing water pollution, enhancing public safety and willingness to assume additional responsibility has led to many contributions in finding solutions to improve operation and maintenance of more than 100 miles of pipeline on the coastside.  Some of those contributions include:

  • Intuitively working to decrease the load on the Princeton Pump Station by teaming up with engineering consultants to re-route previously “double pumped” flows to the Portola Pump Station, which then flows to the Treatment Plant. These changes have reduced the chance of overflows at the harbor and led to lower operational costs for the Granada Sanitary District (GSD);
  • Taking the lead in contacting local and state reporting agencies, member agencies, consultants and contractors involved in excavation and repair of damaged pipelines to anticipate potential sanitary sewer overflows;   
  • Diligently investigating known challenges with storm drain cross connections through GSD’s smoke testing program;  
  • Leading the dye testing and confined space entry efforts to resolve the wastewater leakage into the storm drain that was believed to be, and confirmed not to be, one of the sources of contamination at Princeton Harbor; and
  • Establishing the Authority’s first written flushing route plans for GSD long before computerization and the general waste discharge requirements set forth in SAM’s Sewer System Management Plan mandated for all statewide collection systems by the State Water Resources Control Board which helps ensure consistently reliable service and protects the environment by minimizing sanitary sewer overflows. Under Pat’s plans as a basis, SAM flushes the entire system annually and other parts on an accelerated basis to optimize efficiency.

About the California Water Environment Association (CWEA):  CWEA has been California’s leader in wastewater training and certification since 1927.  A 501(c) 3 public benefit corporation of 9,000-plus professionals in the wastewater industry, CWEA is dedicated to the educational development of wastewater professionals through certification and continued education trainings, information dissemination, professional networking, sound policy promotion and competency testing to benefit society through protection and enhancement of the water environment. CWEA also recognizes outstanding wastewater professionals and agencies through local and statewide annual awards programs that include over 20 categories and 350 awards for the service and accomplishments in the industry. CWEA serves at the state level as well as locally through 17 geographical locations including Santa Clara Valley section whose boundary includes the San Mateo County coastside.  For more information, log onto: