Modesto mom finds opportunity in dirty job?public healt

Its important that the waters treatment meets the standards for discharges to the San Joaquin River, or state regulators could slap Modesto with a cease and desist order, with daily fines of $3,000 per violation.

Anhalt doesnt knopublic health careersw that shes brought a womans touch to the job. Some of the large pipes at the Jennings plant are painted an attractive purple, green and blue, but its more in keeping with industry standards. The color coding tells workers what is in the pipes.

At one time, working in sewage treatment plants was among the most dangerous occupations. Beside the strong chemicals and contaminated water, employees have to work in the rain around equipment with high voltage electrical circuits.

In addition to dealing with the occupational dangers, Anhalt once was bitten by a feral cat, requiring her to undergo rabies shots.

Sometimes, it takes an extra effort to convince men of her knowledge of treatment technology, she said. I find I have to prove that I know what Im talking about. I have to back it up with extra information.

One of the nice things about working with a person of Lauras caliber is shes a team player, said Public Works Director Dennis Turner. She has many years of experience, and thats important when you are operating a cility the size of Modestos.

As the cility manager for Modesto, she oversees the primary treatment plant on Sutter Avenue in southwest Modesto and the more advanced cilities on Jennings Road, eight miles west of the city. Shes in charge of operations and maintenance, manages schedules for 45 employes, deals with licensing and permit issues, and coordinates with other staff on capital improvements.

The physical nature of the job posed a few challenges for the mother of two. She needed to use longer bars &x97; or cheater bars &x97; for leverage to open certain valves. Occasionally, someone had to open one for her, she said.

Officials say Anhalts career path from a trainee to a management job, paying $80,000 to $101,000 a year, is an example of the opportunities in public works employment.

Three years ago, the former day-care provider was hired as cility manager of Modestos two treatment plants, which process up to 25 million gallons of waste water a day.

Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at or (209) 578-2321.

Anhalt also attends staff meetings on a $125 million project to expand the tertiary treatment cilities at the Jennings plant, which is supposed to comply with more stringent discharge requirements by 2016.

In a previous job, one of her duties was to open pumps to clean out rubber bands, hair and other stuff that people had flushed down their toilets. She cleaned the rotating arms of filter reactors, stirring clouds of flies that got into her ears, nose and eyes.

The Fresno native got some of her know-how from her ther, who worked as a master carpenter to support his wife and three daughters. Anhalt said she became the son her ther never had.

Although her childhood dream was to become a doctor, Anhalt likes to work with technology thats improving rivers in California and providing a sanitary life for more than 200,000 Modesto residents.

&x95; The city of Modesto has a 24-hour job line with information about openings at 577-5498, or go to; The state Department of Public Health Web site, under Certificates and Licenses, has information on the types of jobs, required experience, and testing for working on wateModesto mom finds opportunity in dirty job?public healtr systems. Go to; The Office of Water Programs at California State University, Sacramento, has distance learning courses for people interested in careers dealing with drinking water and waste-water. Go to

She is quick to acknowledge the career isnt for everyone, however.

Modesto mom finds opportunity in dirty job?public healt,For six years, she was a full-time mom and ran a day-care cility, teaching her little charges to make -bag puppets and Mothers Day gifts.

Starting as an operator trainee in 1994, she cleaned pumps covered with raw sewage and shoveled the grit from tanks. But she became scinated with the science of waste-water treatment and since then has not wanted to do anything else.

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She was introduced to waste-water treatment after her husbands friend went through a training program and suggested that she could do the job as well. She volunteered at a Bay Area plant and before long was working with a shovel and wrench at the San Leandro sewer cility.

When she went home to her mily, her dirty boots and uniforms stayed in the locker room at work. In time, she stopped noticing the odors at the plant.

Once treated, the recycled water is almost clean enough to drink, and the city is working with other agencies on a plan to sell it to rms in western Stanislaus County.

I likened it to changing the diapers of someone elses 2-year-old, Anhalt said. After awhile you just get used to it.

Through study and passing the state exams, she gradually advanced from a Grade I operator to Grade IV, and became an operations and maintenance supervisor over 20 employees.

I love what I do, Anhalt said. Its all about helping the environment. Its about keeping cities running properly. Cities cant do without waste-water treatment cilities.

Anhalt is one of the few women who work in waste-water treatment. She knows about a half-dozen other women in the field, including the cility manager for the city of Napa.

I dont recommend this work for everybody, she said. You have to be somewhat mechanically inclined. You cant be afraid to get dirty. And you have to want to work for the environment.

MODESTO — Laura Anhalt didnt seem like a person who would choose a career in the waste-water treatment field.

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