Are We Taking Things for Granted
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Are We Taking Things for Granted
How often do you think about all the infrastructure or maintenance and support staff it takes so that when you turn on the tap – water runs from it or, how often do you give similar thought to wastewater disappearing from sight at the twist of a handle? If you are anything like me, life seems far too busy to entertain such thoughts.

However, as part of my concern for emergency preparedness, I felt the need to have a thorough understanding of our water and sewer infrastructure. Therefore, last week I toured the Foster City Corporation Yard where the Public Works Maintenance Division resides. The tour lasted approximately 6 hours spanning a period of two days and covered the inner workings of our water system, sewer (wastewater) system, and lagoons.

We have about 20 million gallons of water stored in four tanks, three 4-million gallon and one 8-million gallon tanks, that satisfy our household and firefighting needs. We consume about 2.5 million gallons per day during the winter months and about 8 million gallons per day during the summer months. Huge pumps driven by electricity, backed up by fueled generators, interconnect all the tanks. There is redundancy at every conceivable location.

I was able to descend down into a few of the sewer lift (pump) stations. Many communities have hills affording gravity to move wastewater and as all are acutely aware, our City is level so pumps must move all our wastewater to the Wastewater Treatment Plant shared with San Mateo. There are nearly 50 lift stations each housing two or three pumps, having one extra for redundancy.

In a former life in executive management, staff attitude, morale, and retention were always of concern to upper management. What I found among the Public Works staff was an extremely high moral and a sense of pride in the work that they do, some of the work would qualify for an episode on “Dirty Jobs.”

Water and sewer are two of those issues that are more often than not, taken for granted. Only when water stops appearing from a turned tap or wastewater starts backing up that we are outspoken about the conditions. Seldom do we say “Thank you” to those workers in their rubber boots cleaning out grease filled sewer pipes.

From what I observed, I am convinced that our Public Works staff gives their 100 percent to making sure problems do not occur. I for one have a revived appreciation for our Public Works Department.

I would appreciate your comments on this and other issues by emailing me at

Council Corner

February 20, 2008
Are We Taking Things for Granted

City Hall - 610 Foster City Blvd.
Foster City, CA 94404
(650) 286-3200