Behind the Tap Series: Lead Maintenance Technician Mike Harp
Meet CCWA General Services Lead Maintenance Technician Mike Harp. As a technician, he often works in the shadows keeping the water authority’s assets maintained and operations. In Mike’s position, you have to know a little bit of everything about fixing almost anything. He supervises, maintains and repairs electrical/mechanical equipment used at water and wastewater facilities, pelletizing and dewatering facilities, ground reservoirs, elevated tanks, and water pumping stations. He is skilled at pipefitting, metal fabrication (welding and cutting) and installing new and rebuilt water and wastewater equipment using specialized riggings and lifting equipment. He also maintains communication with maintenance and operations personnel to insure plant performance. Plus, has computer skills and a working knowledge of CCWA’s procurement procedures.
Mike likes the fact that there is something different all the time and he isn’t sitting in one place. His work doesn’t always take place during the regular workday. He works on call with 2 other lead maintenance technicians. If something breaks at a plant at 2 a.m. or on the weekend, Mike (or one of two other lead maintenance technicians) responds to troubleshoot and make the repair.
“From mechanical issues to pulling pumps, replacing motors and electrical troubleshooting, if something isn’t running, we go troubleshoot,” he says. “It’s a challenge when you run into something you haven’t seen before. But I get a lot of satisfaction out of getting equipment back up and running.”
Challenges in his job include weather and the inherent dangers that come with this type of work. Weather wreaks havoc on equipment – whether it’s lighting storms that lead to power outages, the really hot days of summer when motors overheat, or the cold of winter when exposed pipes at plants freeze. Mike and the other maintenance techs use boom trucks, climb over equipment, deal with moving parts, constantly learn new technology and work on a lot of new equipment. He recently completed a training class for CCWA’s new polishing plant that goes on-line later this spring. Training like this is essential because not being well trained can cost you your life in his line of work.
Other challenges are the fact that it is such a small group of technicians that maintain every piece of equipment in the water authority (a total of 6) and the graying of our industry. Plant operators who have worked at a plant for 20 plus years often make small repairs themselves. As long tenured plant operators retire, Mike and the other techs are relied on more for small repairs and preventative maintenance. However, he enjoys the work he does and appreciates the fact that management values his opinion.
Spending a little time with Mike reminds you how life often leads us to where we are supposed to be. He grew up tagging along with his Dad, learning to work on things with his hands. “There wasn’t anything he couldn’t fix,” Mike says. After serving in the U.S. Air Force where he worked on jet engines, then working in a large machine shop where he supervised a large group in industrial maintenance, life brought Mike to CCWA 13 years ago. The water authority in the community he grew up in. “I wish someone had pointed me in this direction 20 years ago,” he says with a chuckle. #waterprofessional