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Behind the Tap Spotlight: Microbiologist Melissa Hammond

 Meet CCWA Microbiologist Melissa Hammond. Melissa works in our Water Production Department’s Water Quality Laboratory. Her primary job duty is the sampling and bacterial analysis of the distribution system. Every month, 180 samples are collected from the distribution system and analyzed from public access businesses like gas station convenience stores, business parkways, churches, schools, hospitals, medical care facilities, day cares, police precincts and fire stations. Plus, multiple CCWA office/building locations and sample stations in areas where public access is not available or convenient, especially in the more residential areas of the county.

Melissa has a master list of 493 sample sites to select from which continues to grow as businesses close or change. Each sample is tested for the presence or absence of total coliform bacteria and E.coli bacteria to ensure the water in the distribution system is safe for people to drink and use.

Microbiologist Melissa Hammond

Melissa’s other job duties include quality assurance/quality control procedures pertaining to the media, sample bottles, filters, petri dishes, and other containers used in bacteriological examinations. She also reviews and updates standard operating procedures as needed and ensures we have the necessary certificates of accuracy/analysis/quality for each media or apparatus used with microbiological analyses. “I occasionally make certain medias, buffered rinse water batches, or sterile deionized water batches needed for bacteriological analyses, and handle customer concerns and water test requests,” she adds.

What Melissa likes most about her job is the flexibility. “I have flexibility in choosing to go out in the field, stay in the lab, or in my office working on various aspects of my job depending on the needs of our lab. I also have flexibility in choosing where I go in the county for sample collections and how many samples I collect on any given day. I love the working dynamic of our lab staff and supervisor. We work well as a team to ensure everything required and necessary gets done every month.”

Melissa’s biggest challenge is adjusting to the unexpected and sudden changes to prescheduled work duties that sometimes occur. “When you plan out your work week, you fix your mind in preparation for a certain type of workday each day, and suddenly something may happen that creates a situation where those plans must change, and you end up having to do something else,” she adds. “Change can always be difficult and stressful but depending on when these unexpected and sudden changes occur during the month can influence the amount of stress created.

Melissa’s job duties deal with compliance with state and federal laws, so a pandemic cannot keep her from conducting her job duties. The required number of samples each month must be collected and analyzed to be in compliance with the State of GA EPD.  Some of the difficulties faced were businesses being temporarily closed or permanently closed. “We had to make special arrangements with the school system to be able to access the schools to continue sampling from them throughout the pandemic when schools were all virtual. For businesses that closed, we had to find other businesses to replace them. Having to explain to new businesses why we needed to come into their business and collect a water sample could be challenging because of the fears of people.”

Melissa has worked at CCWA for almost 18 years full-time, and she loves her job. “I feel like CCWA is a second family. I take my job seriously because I know we are dealing with human health when it comes to creating and testing our drinking water. I hope to stay with CCWA as long as possible.” #waterprofessional