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home : current news : current news May 24, 2016

8/20/2013 11:51:00 AM
It's not glamorous, but McIntosh loves his dirty job
By Jim Cornelius
News Editor

Most folks would think of Doug McIntosh's primary responsibility with the City of Sisters Public Works Department as a dirty job. They'd also have to acknowledge that there are few jobs more important.

He's the city's municipal wastewater plant operator.

"I oversee and monitor the flows," he says.

That means making sure the pipes are clean and open and that the pumping station is operating properly. It also means making sure that the spray irrigation of effluent stays within Department of Environmental Quality standards.

Sisters sewers, like those of any city since ancient times, end up the receptacle of lost personal possessions.

"We find some interesting stuff," McIntosh acknowledged. "Every once in a while the pumping station rags up. One day it was -I swear -a size 60 underwear."

Grease is a major issue in pipes because it shrinks diameter and thereby reduces capacity. When crews clean grease buildup out of pipes, they find all sorts of lost treasure in the muck.

"We found a diamond ring," McIntosh said. "That actually got returned."

Change is common, as are car keys.

"I always bring 'em back, but nobody wants to claim them," McIntosh says with a grin.

McIntosh finds a lot of satisfaction in his work, despite its obvious drawbacks.

"Sometimes I'm floating in a boat on the lagoon... I know it's a gross job," he says with a shrug.

But it's also scientifically interesting and challenging from an engineering and troubleshooting standpoint. McIntosh says he's constantly "learning new things. I haven't had every situation happen yet."

The plant operator says that the facility is in good condition.

"It's in good shape. It's coming up on some repairs and maintenance, but all-in-all it's in good shape for -what has it been, 13 years?"

Right now, the only pressing concern is capacity to dispose of effluent. Thanks to a land deal several years ago, the city has plenty of acreage to dispose of effluent through irrigation, but they will eventually have to lay in more pipe.

The plant disposes of 300,000 gallons daily at peak; capacity is 265,000 gallons in the forest and 76,000 on the plant's dike.

"July is our most productive month," McIntosh says.

Plant operation is not the total of McIntosh's duties. Like all public works employees, he's cross trained and will work wherever he's needed to get a project done.

And getting projects done is immensely satisfying.

"My mom comes to visit and I'll take her out and show her what we've done," he says. "It's a very gratifying job."

McIntosh took the job after moving over from Eugene and working for a while in the construction trade in Bend.

"I always wanted to live in this town," he says.

He enjoys working for the city.

"It's a great crew here," he says. "We get along great. We've grown together over the last six years that I've been here."

Asked what his favorite part of the job is, he laughs a little.

"My favorite part of the job is fixing a water leak," he says. "I don't know why."

Off the clock, McIntosh enjoys spending time with his wife, Holly, and his three children.

"I enjoy fishing with my kids a lot," he says.

Perhaps the only downside of the job is having to wear an orange shirt. That's definitely not the family colors.

"We're all avid Duck fans," he says.

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