Staffing Shortage Puts San Jose Wastewater Treatment Plant in Peril
A staffing shortage at the San Jose/Santa Clara Water Pollution Control Plant has raised the risk of the facility breaking down and spilling raw sewage into the bay, according to the city’s environmental department and auditor.
Tuesday, the city council will vote on whether to hire temporary workers to fill some of the voids.
“The risk is very serious and we’re taking it very seriously," says San Jose City Councilman Sam Liccardo, chair of the transportation and environment committee that oversees the plant. “We know that we’ve got to go to the private sector now for help in the short term to try to hire up staff and we’ll be looking for longer-term solutions in the coming weeks.”
Liccardo says the plant’s struggles to retain and attract workers are an unintended consequence of budget cuts.
A city audit found “significant losses” of highly-skilled workers in the plant’s maintenance and operations staff over the past couple of years.
Liccardo says some were planned retirements, but the real problem is the city doesn’t pay enough to attract and retain skilled workers. He says that has to change.
“So there’s going to be some very hard decisions ahead,” he says. “And it means we’re going to have to be cutting some city services in order to maintain key services, like the water pollution control plant.”
The plant serves more than 1.5 million people in San Jose, Santa Clara, Milpitas, Campbell, Cupertino, Los Gatos, Saratoga, and Monte Sereno.