As the COVID-19 pandemic and statewide Stay at Home order continue, a second team of 10 mission-critical operations and maintenance employees has voluntarily locked in at the Claude "Bud" Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant to ensure uninterrupted production and delivery of safe and reliable water for San Diego County.
"When we initially planned for the first lock-in team, we knew it was very possible that the situation would not be resolved in 21 days," said Gilad Cohen, CEO of plant operator IDE Americas Inc. "Thanks to careful planning and staff cooperation, we were able to relieve the first team of shelter in place employees so they can go home to their loved ones, and transition in a new team to assume responsibility for overseeing this critical regional facility."
As the largest desalination plant in the United States, the plant normally operates with a staff of approximately 40 employees working full time. The decision to have mission-critical employees shelter in place at the Carlsbad Plant was made in March, after public health orders necessitated that no more than 10 people congregate in one place. Acting quickly and decisively, plant manager Poseidon Water and plant operator IDE Americas Inc., along with public partner the San Diego County Water Authority, took the extraordinary step of having employees shelter in place at the plant for 21 days to ensure operational continuity. With the COVID-19 public health crisis persisting, the first team was relieved by a second crew on April 9. The new crew of 10 employees will remain at the plant until April 30.
"The health and safety of the employees and the San Diego region is of the upmost importance in this fluid situation," said Carlos Riva, CEO of Poseidon Water. "We are incredibly thankful to both teams of mission-critical employees for their willingness to remain onsite, away from their families and loved ones, to ensure the Carlsbad Desalination Plant continues providing San Diego County with 50 million gallons of high-quality drinking water every day."
The Carlsbad Desalination Plant was among the first water facilities in the United States to implement a shelter in place protocol in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Since initiating this unprecedented step on March 19, numerous other water facilities across the country have followed the Carlsbad plant's example, many reaching out to Poseidon Water and IDE Americas Inc. for guidance. Until the pandemic ceases, mission-critical operations, maintenance and lab employees are committed to continuing plant operations and delivering continued water supply to the San Diego community.
These necessary precautions to shelter in place at the plant, including the use of RVs for lodging and no-contact food and supply deliveries, allow staff to be completely isolated and comfortable working at the plant. While onsite, the mission-critical operators and technicians are working 12-hour shifts to make sure the plant continues running and maintains compliance with the state and federal drinking water standards.
At the end of the 21-day lock-in, the original group of IDE Americas Inc. volunteers shared a statement about their experience. "Each and every one of us here at the Carlsbad Desalination Plant couldn't have been prouder to provide safe and clean water to our community. We volunteered without hesitation at this uncertain time for the greater good of the San Diego area. At the same time that we are away from our family and friends, we are also honored to be helping them and the community by providing a reliable source of water. We also appreciate the outpouring of support we received from the community, from the creative artwork to inspiring letters sent by residents of all ages. We thank you!"
As the situation continues to evolve, the Carlsbad Desalination Plant operators remain committed to ensuring operational continuity, something that their fellow San Diego County residents appreciate and admire. The notes of gratitude and appreciation shared by dozens of residents and families from throughout the county exemplifies just how important continued access to fresh water is. The plant employees are encouraged by these kind messages and are dedicated to isolating themselves to ensure reliable water access.