Expert Spotlight: Domingo Cortez Jr.
Domingo Cortez Jr., W/WW (Water/Wastewater) Operator Chief, is a bridge of knowledge between BPUB’s past and it’s present. He is also an exceptional leader who fosters growth and education among his employees in the hope that they one day lead BPUB into the future.
Cortez is reserved, but don’t let that fool you. He’s an expert in his field and knows the water plant like the back of his hand. He was born and raised in Brownsville and graduated from Porter High School. After graduation, he attended Texas Southmost College for only two semesters until he got the call he’d been waiting for.
BPUB hired Cortez as an operator on August 14, 1991. He wanted to work BPUB until he found his passion, but he realized there was so much more to learn about water.
“The longer I worked here, the more I realized I knew very little about how water is gathered, purified and distributed, so I stayed to find out more about it because it really interested me,” he said.
It was a different world then. Water Treatment Plant No. 1 supplied most of the water for Brownsville, and there were no computers running the machines.
“Back then everything was manual,” Cortez recalls. “We had to push knobs to open pistons and open valves manually to the filtration system. Now, it’s done with just the click of the mouse on the SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) System.”
Cortez and his team have made many upgrades and improvements to the water plant built in 1931. Eighty-eight years ago, Brownsville’s population was smaller, the city itself had fewer businesses, therefore, and the plant was enough to supply clean water for all the residents. But as the city grew, BPUB also expanded and later added the Southmost Regional Water Authority Plant to meet Brownsville’s new water demands. A big part of the chief’s job is to implement ways to continuously upgrade aging equipment and simultaneously educate his employees on the old and new forms of machinery operation.
“In order to maintain the plant, we have to implement new technology to assist the old machinery,” Cortez said. “This is done by upgrading the SCADA Systems, pumps and motors, rehabbing the filtration system and staffing the plant with employees that are willing to make a career out of plant operations.”
Cortez and his co-worker Lead W/WW Operator Norberto Flores Jr. started working at BPUB around the same time and new operators rely on them for their knowledge. Sharing information and training operators is something Cortez made a priority under his leadership.
“Back then if the chief asked you to do something, you just did it,” he said. “No questions. And now, operators want to know why they’re doing the work, so I’m teaching them and offering training to them now so they can get their ‘Surface Water Licenses’ quicker than I did.”
Cortez’s biggest accomplishment was earning the Surface Water License “A” from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) in 2001. This certification is the highest license an operator can obtain and this helped him be promoted to chief.
“I feel very fortunate for the many opportunities that BPUB has given me,” he said. “BPUB offered me advancement by letting me take courses in leadership, safety, management and obtaining licenses related to the job.”
Now, Cortez wants his employees to learn as much as possible to continue producing the best quality water for Brownsville residents. When he retires, he wants to be sure that the plant will continue running like no one ever left it behind.
“I want to be remembered as a hardworking and responsible individual,” he said.