Meet Emerging Leader: Mark McGrath, Collections System Supervisor

Emerging Leaders, Wastewater News

Mark McGrath, Collections System Supervisor, Hayward

Mark McGrath, Collections System Supervisor in Hayward, California, knows what it’s like to be part of the collections crew, because he’s been one of them. “I know their needs, because I’ve been there,” he says. “I understand the adverse conditions, the outdoor elements. I acknowledge their efforts when they’ve done well. I treat them as equals.”

McGrath started with Hayward as a temporary in the collections systems in the early 1990s. He became a full time member of the staff in 1999.

In the years since, McGrath has had the opportunity to build an effective collections team of eight employees, and improve the collections systems hydro cleaning equipment from two to three vehicles.

The impact has been dramatic. “They (the collections team) are constantly setting new records with regards to system cleaning and televising,” wrote nominator Robert Gerena, Operations and Maintenance (O&M) Supervisor. “They’ve undertaken tasks that–before– were thought to be above their abilities, such as large trunk sewer and storm drain cleaning.”

The numbers speak for themselves. McGrath’s crew has more than doubled the miles of sewers cleaned since 2013, and televised miles are up from 27 to 49 in the same period. The last overflow event in Hayward was in January 2016. (The average before 2014 was five CSOs per year, according to Gerena.)

“I like numbers,” McGrath says, “but make sure it’s clean. Don’t pad the stats.”

Not only has McGrath’s team improved footage cleaned and inspected, they’re operating more efficiently, identifying high frequency areas, and taking sections off the list if they don’t need to be cleaned anymore. “A lot of it is just knowing the system,” McGrath says.

If managing the collections system weren’t enough, McGrath is active in many other areas. He is the leader of the department’s Combined Space Rescue Team, conducts classes for CWEA, and represents Hayward on the Bay Area Clean Water Agencies Collections Committee. He led the effort to update the city’s Sewer System Management Plan, and he frequently works with other city departments on stormwater, lift station wet wells, and water line breaks. “He is considered an expert in his field,” says Gerena.

McGrath grew up in Hayward, and says he can’t imagine working anywhere else. The future is challenging but promising in his view. “We have better equipment, and people are more aware of water. We’re recycling water for irrigation and cooling. We’re doing a lot more than we were before.”

Gerena agrees. “Under McGrath, the sewer collections group is everywhere in Hayward…making a difference.”