MMWD Senior Engineer Kevin McDonnell recently retired after 36 years with MMWD. Below he shares some thoughts about his work at the district. View a map of infrastructure projects he worked on during his time at MMWD.
As you may guess, leaving is difficult after 36 years.
When I started, we had 1,500 main breaks per year and a pipeline rehabilitation effort of about a half mile per year. Now we’re down to 150 main breaks per year and a rehab effort of nearly 8 miles per year. Still, this rate is asking pipe to last over 130 years.
When I started, the district had 817 miles of potable water pipe, of which 25% was 4-inch diameter or less. Now we have 886 miles and only 10% is 4-inch or less. That’s the influence of the Fire Flow Program
The effort to maintain infrastructure by this district is very commendable. It’s through continued board strength and vision that this happens. I’m not just saying that because it’s kept me employed all these years.
So although I’ve seen an awful lot of pipes get replaced, there is still much to do: More than 16 miles of the district's pipe (2%) is over 100 years old. In Sausalito there is cast iron pipe along Bridgeway and three riveted steel tanks that date to 1909. The piping on Red Hill Avenue "Miracle Mile" dates to 1883—almost 30 years before the creation of MMWD. These are just a few examples, and that’s before talking about treatment and watershed issues!
The work isn’t easy and not always well received, but we’ve always had good people getting the work done. In about 1985, I was quoted as saying “We never have any friends until we’re done.” I’ve used that line a lot.
I remember gratitude from the Downtown Larkspur Association when Magnolia Avenue was redone. Also from the Downtown San Rafael Association when Fourth Street was done. And from the Italian Street Painting Festival, also in San Rafael, and from the Fawn Drive Water Main Committee in Sleepy Hollow.
It's fun to think of all that we've built over the years. It’s more fun to think of all the friends whom we’ve built MMWD with. It’s been fun working with them. And I appreciate all the board support over all the years.
It’s the people that I’ll miss. At one point, people said “Hey kid, come with me.” They don’t say “kid” anymore, but once again I’ll follow their lead and go with them into retirement.