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CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8 | cbs8.com

Unsung Heroes: Carlsbad's desalination plant workers

In an effort to keep delivering 50 million gallons of fresh water to the county daily the plant has gone on complete lockdown.

The Carlsbad Desalination Plant turns seawater into clean safe drinking water.

In an effort to keep delivering 50 million gallons of fresh water to the county daily the plant has gone on complete lockdown.

As of March 19, 10 workers volunteered to quarantine themselves inside the Carlsbad plant for the next three weeks. The company said workers will continue to monitor and adjust gauges and switches, watching for leaks - doing whatever is needed to safeguard San Diego County's only significant local source of drinking water.

Jessica Jones the director of communications for Poseidon Water said: "When we realized that COVID-19 was going to be a serious threat in San Diego County we had three days to lock this site down."

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The request for volunteers was a precaution against the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The "mission-critical" employees will work 12-hour shifts, sleep in rented RVs in the parking lot, and be re-supplied with fresh food left for them at the plant's gate.

"We have had groceries delivered to them every couple of days. They place those orders online and those groceries are delivered to the gate. They have no human contact." said Jones.

Their downtime kind of looks like ours with the exception of no outside contact. What normally takes 42 desalination water plant employees is now being done by 10.  

But all the work and time away from their families is taking a toll.

"We have spoken to a few operators on site. They appreciate support from the community. There's been a lot of positive support, but they're tired. They're doing the job of 42 full-time employees and there's only 10 of them. They are operating on two 12 hour shifts, and they are tired," said Jones.

In an effort to keep up the morale the company is asking the community to help thank the dedicated plant operators sheltering in place by sending them a message or artwork here: https://bit.ly/thank-carlsbad-desal

Once the 10 employees complete their 21 days of shelter in place the next group of 10 who have been in self-quarantine at home will take over their shifts seamlessly.

"Your water supply is completely safe. There's no need to rush out and purchase extra water bottles. The water that comes out of your faucet is extremely safe," Jones said.

The Carlsbad Desalination plant delivers nearly 50 million gallons (56,000 acre-feet per year (AFY) of fresh, desalinated water to San Diego County – enough to serve approximately 400,000 people and accounting for about one-third of all water generated in the county.