One of the world’s most precious resources, water is essential not only to all life forms but to many of the research and recreation activities at the Urbana campus. The Environmental Compliance Division of Facilities and Services is responsible for maintaining the safety of water on campus – from the water that people drink to the water that they swim in to the water system that cools the buildings that they live and work in. Shawn Young has been a water station operator for 22 years – 15 years at the UI, preceded by seven with the town of Rankin.
What does your job entail?
We take care of maintaining the water chemistry in all the swimming pools on campus on a seven-days-a-week, 365-days-a-year basis, which is mandated by the Public Health District. We take care of the pools at Campus Recreation Center East, Freer Hall, Kenney Gym and both the indoor and outdoor pools at Intramural Physical Education building, when they reopen.
We also take care of all the cooling towers on campus, which cool the machines that make the chilled water to cool the buildings. We chemically treat the water and keep it in balance. We also take care of the chilled water loop, which is all the water that goes out across campus to the buildings to cool them. When the water gets warmed up, it goes back to the chiller plant and gets cooled back down again. The UI has a pretty big chilled water loop – it’s a little over 3 million gallons underground.
We have to run tests – a mass balance probe and a bacteriological dip slide – on the water in the cooling towers weekly to check for levels of different chemicals, so they’re at the optimum levels for the machines to run efficiently, to make sure there isn’t any bacteria present and so the equipment doesn’t scale or corrode.
We also take care of all the specialty water equipment in all the buildings: reverse osmosis, demineralizers, deionizers, dealkalizers, water softeners. My job right now is to do all the locates and manage the distribution systems. Any time a contractor – whether it’s people from Facilities and Services or an outside company – wants to break ground, they have to call in a locate. I go out and mark all our water lines so they know where they’re at.
When new buildings go on line, I have to sample the water in the buildings beforehand. Or if somebody has a taste or odor problem with the water in their building, I’ll go take a sample and send it in to the Environmental Protection Agency to make sure it passes its quality standards.
That must keep you pretty busy with all the construction that goes on.
It does. Last year, we had about 1,400 locates.
What kind of training or education do you have to have?
In our jobs here, we can get specialized training and licenses in the fields of water treatment, swimming pools, pest control and aquatics. I have water treatment, pest control and aquatics licenses. I’ve taken some water treatment classes at Kankakee Community College too.
How many people are in your department?
Eleven, plus the foreman. People have zones that they cover on campus, but they may take care of 10, 12 or 15 buildings that have equipment in them that they run.
What’s the best part about what you do?
The variety. It’s not repetitious. There are days where our work may take us all the way from the Construction Engineering Research Lab out at the Interstate Research Park down to Willard Airport in Savoy. And the people are good too.
What do you do when you’re not working?
I love to coach youth sports. I’ve coached softball and baseball, and have helped coach football.
Right now, I’m also on the school board at Paxton-Buckley-Loda School District. And I just finished serving a one-year term as president of the PBL Athletic Booster Club.
I’ve got three kids of my own: a daughter, 14; a son, 12; and a son, 11. I love to be involved with kids. I’m very active with stuff at home, too; it seems like there’s never a dull moment.