Danella Pettenski, PE, joins ms as the Director of Operations for Water and Wastewater. Danella brings 30+ years of experience in water and wastewater services to the ms Water team. Coming to ms from the public sector, Danella offers new insight into the proposal and project processes.
Welcome to the team, Danella!
WE SAT DOWN WITH DANELLA TO GET HER THOUGHTS ON THE WATER INDUSTRY AND WHERE IT’S HEADING…
What are the biggest challenges you face on a day-to-day basis when it comes to meeting client/project needs? How do you deal with these challenges?
Having the resources to perform the work and provide quality service is one of the biggest challenges. With various funding being more readily available to our clients, which allows them to do more projects than ever before, I believe having the staff available to meet these needs will continue to be a challenge, industrywide, for the next few years.
There is not any one answer or a silver bullet to address this challenge. I believe it has to be a team effort, starting with recruiting, providing a work environment that values employees, and give these employees opportunities to grow within their area of interest. This includes giving employees challenging projects and mentorship to support their growth.
If you do that, you have a good chance of retaining your employees, which is key to becoming a successful company that regularly meets clients’ needs and provides quality service.
What do you feel is the biggest trend/need in your specialty area(s)? How are you meeting these needs?
Coming from working in the drinking water sector for the past 15 years, I can say staying ahead of the regulations continues to be a challenge for many public water utilities.
Right now, the new Federal Lead and Copper Rule Revisions (LCRR) impacts all water utilities with action items that need to be done in the next two years.
Additionally, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) just came out with a new health advisory level for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, and is committed to proposing a drinking water standard for perfluorooctanoic acid and perfluorooctanesulfonic by fall 2022, a rule the agency has said it would finalize by fall 2023. In that rulemaking, the EPA will develop maximum contaminant level goals (MCLGs) to replace the new interim health advisories.
Many of our existing clients will need assistance on one or possibly both of the regulations listed, so we must position ourselves to help these communities when needed. In fact, we are already assisting one client in the Pittsburgh area with removing lead service lines from their system, which will help them meet the goals of the LCRR.
OKAY, ON TO THE FUN STUFF!
How did you decide you wanted to be in your chosen profession?
Mainly by luck and old-school methods. Growing up, I really didn’t know much about engineering or even know any engineers.
At that time, in high school, you were given an aptitude test to determine what your skills and strengths were. This aptitude test also provided you with jobs and careers that matched your skills and strengths. Engineering was one of those professions that matched my strengths, so without really knowing what an engineer did, I applied to Ohio University to study civil engineering. It apparently worked out for me.
If you weren’t in this profession, what would you be doing?
Something in the sports field, since I played sports growing up and love watching all kinds of different types of sports. I actually played baseball and basketball on the boy’s team when I was young because there were not any girl’s teams for me to play on where I grew up. This year is the 50th Anniversary of Title IX, and I am excited to see the opportunities that are now available for girls growing up wanting to participate in sports.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time? Hobbies, organizations, community involvement, etc.
I like gardening and working in the yard or outside. I have a large garden I plant each year that keeps me busy in the summer. We usually have more vegetables than we can eat, so I typically will bring any extras in the office to share with my co-workers. I also golf, however, I haven’t swung a club in a couple years due to the pandemic.
I am also very active in American Water Works Association.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
This is hard because I have been fortunate to work with a lot of great professionals throughout my career that have provided me with a lot of great guidance.
With that being said, when I was about 10 years into my career, my manager suggested to me (basically handed me an application) to join American Water Works Association (AWWA). He then supported me when I started getting active in the southeast district of Ohio AWWA, and I am proud to say I am now a 22-year member.
My experience as an AWWA member has been invaluable to my career, and I would highly recommend joining a professional organization to any young (or seasoned) professional in the water/wastewater industry. Not only have I made many lifelong friends in the water industry, but it has also helped me develop technically, professionally, and also advance my leadership skills by being active on committees and serving on the governing board at both the state and association levels.