Janesville utilities director retiring after nearly 30 years

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Saturday, December 17, 2011
— When Dan Lynch started as utility engineer in 1983, about 220 miles of water pipes and 200 miles of sewer lines lay under Janesville. Today, the numbers are 30 percent higher—367 miles and 316 miles.

Lynch, 58, is retiring at year’s end as director of the water and wastewater utilities. He became director in 1990.

Managing the water and wastewater systems is like running a “big, beautiful machine and making it work,” Lynch said.

Over the years, Lynch has dealt with regulations and technology that have grown complicated. He handled one of the nation’s first water scares after 9/11.

Carl Weber, public works director, said Lynch is a “consummate professional” who is well regarded statewide.

Lynch has a personal ownership of the systems, Weber said.

“He really takes these things to heart and is very protective,” Weber said.

Lynch knows the systems “inside and out” and has a wonderful sense of the history, Weber added.

“I have always been impressed with his knowledge in both of those areas.”

Lynch said highlights of his career include:

-- Overseeing two minor and two major upgrades at the wastewater treatment plant, the most recent costing $32 million.

-- Upgrading existing water pumping stations and building five new ones, including three deep wells and the city’s first water tower.

-- Implementing a water utility generator backup program so water will run several days without electricity.

-- Overseeing master plans for the water utility and sewage collection system to stay ahead of growth. The water system has changed from one that simply pumps water out of the ground to one that uses reservoirs to blend water because of high nitrates.

-- Encouraging certification of employees from the state Department of Natural Resources, increasing the number of certified operators from six to 28.

-- Helping with mercury minimizing, pharmaceutical collections and water conservation programs.

-- Receiving many awards from his peers in state and national organizations.

Weber said Lynch took a “huge interest” in energy efficiency, including generating electricity and now fuel from methane, which is a waste product from the treatment plant. He manages the wells so they pump at certain times to ensure lower power rates.

Lynch stays current on upcoming DNR regulations so he knows not only how they might affect the utilities but also how they could affect costs to consumers, Weber said.

Lynch was director when someone broke into a 5-million-gallon city reservoir after 9/11. The department immediately took it out of service.

Lynch got calls from all over the country.

“This was really the first significant water scare in the country,” he said.

Many tests were conducted, and nothing was found.

“We were the first water utility probably in the county to be tested for anthrax,” Lynch said.

“There were a lot of very exciting, interesting things,” Lynch said. “It was an amazing career.

“Our city is in good shape,” Lynch said. “We know where the problems are and know what we need to do.”

“It’s in better shape now than when I got here,” Lynch said of the water system. “And that’s the role of any good Boy Scout—leave it better than when you got it.”

Last updated: 7:05 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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