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By City Councilwoman Lori Donchak

San Clemente needs all kinds of jobs, and employees willing to do them, in order to prosper. Suffice to say, not all city jobs are glamorous. Most of us have quite a bit of contact with our Marine Safety professionals, the energetic parks and recreation staff or even the friendly folks at city hall. Beyond these familiar faces, there are dozens of other staffers who aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty doing jobs essential to the wellbeing of our community. This article is a salute to them because running a city is not a glamourous business.

For starters, here’s a strong contender for the reality TV show Dirty Jobs. San Clemente is replacing the Water Reclamation Plant odor scrubbers. Our city is one of few in South Orange County with its own sewer treatment plant. The replacement of odor control systems is an unsightly and smelly job but an important part of the overall wastewater treatment process to ensure surrounding residences and businesses are not impacted by unpleasant odors. New odor scrubbers carry an estimated price tag of $2 million. Thank you to the Public Works staffers who are tackling this important project.

Might you know what a swamp cooler is? No, it’s not a reference to the Everglades. If you use the locker rooms at the La Pata Vista Hermosa Aquatics Center, you have unwittingly had a swamp cooler experience. The locker rooms currently are victim to high levels of humidity, the result of being conditioned by an evaporative cooler system, or swamp cooler. Due to damage from dust and climate factors, the swamp cooler needs to go. It is being upgraded to air conditioning systems that will also automatically dehumidify. The result? More comfortable, easier to maintain and healthful locker rooms.

Some of the real glamour jobs are in our storm drains. Most of us have no need or desire to get up close and personal with urban runoff, but dedicated city staffers do this on a routine basis. Urban runoff has many faces, from illegal chemical spills to road contaminants washed down by rain. Consider the current Calle Toledo Storm Drain Improvements project. It involves upgrading a storm drain system at the intersection of Calle Toledo and W. Avenida Gaviota to convey runoff adequately into the canyon via an outlet downstream of Calle Toledo. City employees are trained to be very careful of harmful bacteria and other particulars they encounter at the bottom of often dangerously slippery slopes found in areas like this. A successful project, as mucky as it is, pays dividends in the form of a cleaner ocean.

And here’s one more. It’s makeover time for the massive steel tank, affectionately known as Reservoir 8 and located at 770 Avenida Acapulco. Built in 1981, this reservoir needs to be recoated, repainted and retooled to include a mixer inside that fights water stagnation. Imagine yourself working inside a two-million-gallon steel tank and you’ll begin to understand what this job requires. Water has always been in the spotlight in our town, and protecting the city’s reserves is essential.

The next time you watch Dirty Jobs on the Discovery Channel, think about the unsung city workers who make a living in some interesting and not always pleasant ways. They do the dirty work, day in and day out with no complaints, and though they do the jobs with the lowest profile, they are some of the most important jobs in San Clemente.
I enjoy hearing from you, so please email me comments or questions at Also, let me know if you’re interested in a sunset hike to San Clemente summit before the new year.
Lori Donchak was re-elected to City Council in 2014 and is the Chairwoman of the Orange County Board of Directors. Donchak is also the city’s liaison to San Clemente’s Orange County Library.

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