Marshall keeps water flowing at GCSD in midst of pandemic
By GUY McCARTHY The Union Democrat
Alberta Newspaper Group
Some frontline workers who have worked through the COVID-19 pandemic for the past year in the Mother Lode are highly visible. Many residents see workers at their grocery stores and banks frequently, as well as police and fire employees with lights and sirens responding to calls. Comparatively unseen are the utility workers for Tuolumne Utilities District, Twain Harte Community Services District, and Groveland Community Services District, the workers who keep water flowing to thousands of homes in Tuolumne County. Local utility workers in the Mother Lode are also helping communities deal with a fact of life while more people stay home — there's more human waste collected and more pressure on local sewer systems. Andrew Marshall is a distribution and collections operator with Groveland CSD, the utility that brings treated water to about 3,500 customers in Big Oak Flat, Groveland, and the private, gated community of Pine Mountain Lake. Marshall, 36, of Soulsbyville, was born and raised in the Groveland area. He started working for GCSD in January 2018 and has worked right through the coronavirus pandemic that began to take hold a year ago and contributed to the deaths of 59 county residents, more than 55,000 Californians, and more than 500,000 Americans. “Doing what we do, we have to be able to do our jobs,” Marshall said recently at GCSD headquarters off Ferretti Road in Groveland. “Everybody needs water.” The district owns and operates the Groveland Water System, which relies on Hetch Hetchy water impounded in Yosemite National Park and is owned and operated by the City and County of San Francisco. When the Moc Fire broke out in August near the Hetch Hetchy company town of Moccasin, Marshall was among the GCSD workers who responded to help keep water flowing in Big Oak Flat, Groveland, and Pine Mountain Lake. The blaze in Moccasin coincided with outages up the hill in the Groveland area, and Marshall had to make sure generators were running at 16 lift stations, five water tanks, and two treatment plants. Through the pandemic, it's been normal to see small businesses closing and some people who work at those small businesses unable to earn a living. There have been local debates about the seriousness of the pandemic and whether masks are necessary. Marshall has tried to keep a positive attitude and keep going. “We've had to wear masks all the time,” he said. “It's not a big deal. For some people it's an issue. For me it wasn't. Just wear a mask and be safe.” Marshall's state certifications include water distribution operator and collection system maintenance, according to GCSD. His full job title is water distribution and collections 2 operator. “As a level 2 operator, our job is to supply the community with safe drinking water and maintain and or fix water main breaks, service lines and keep hydrants and valves working properly,” Marshall said. “We install new services for up and coming homes being built.” On the collections side, Marshall and others with Groveland CSD do monthly manhole inspections to ensure proper flow of raw sewage, monthly lift station cleanings, and weekly lift station and generator checks. “With the pandemic we have noticed more people staying home and increased amounts of sewage in our lift stations that we don't normally see until summer or holidays,” Marshall said. “So keeping lift stations and manholes clean and clear has been doubled to keep up with the demand with more residents being at home.” The area served by GCSD covers about 15 square miles in southern Tuolumne County. It's boundaries are the Tuolumne River on the north, the Stanislaus National Forest on the east, and Mariposa County on the south. The district owns and operates the regional wastewater collection, treatment, and regional recycled water system, which provides sewer service to about 1,500 customers in the GCSD service area. Contact Guy McCarthy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 770-0405. Follow him on Twitter at @GuyMcCarthy.