Sanitation is an extremely important service that’s often taken for granted. Dodge Winston, a 42-year-old Wastewater Plant Operator II in the San Francisco Bay Area, has made it a subject you won’t be able to forget. His fourth self-published novel, The Wastewater Plant, is an account of life inside a 25mgd wastewater treatment facility in California.
The story centers on Scott, a 30-something man who faces a record-breaking storm (more than 35 inches) his first day on the job as an operator-in-training. Built around the 1930s, the facility is outdated. His fellow crew members are short of friendly. In the author’s words, “As personal politics explode during the worst storm in centuries, an ancient evil awakens. It’s hungry. It’s intelligent. And it’s focused on the wastewater plant.”
Writing has almost always been a goal for Winston.
“When I was around 6 years old, I knew that I wanted to grow up to be two things: a scientist and a writer,” he says. He was fascinated by his parents’ bookshelves and wanted to be part of that one day.
So how did he get into wastewater? While attending junior college Winston saw an ad for Wastewater Plant Operator, Operator-In-Training (OIT) at the Napa Sanitation District, which serves 75,000 City of Napa residents, a country club, and an airport within 23 square miles. The award-winning district’s 10 mgd secondary and tertiary, biological/physical/chemical plant produces 740 million gallons of recycled water and 1,200 tons of biosolids annually for reuse.
Although he didn’t have any background in wastewater, he decided to go for it because of the benefits and wages. “I believe it was all my science units, my ability to study and pass exams, and my strong work ethic that got me the position,” he says. He’s been in the industry for almost 11 years.
While his book is fictional, Winston drew on personalities and scenarios he’s experienced on the job. He and his coworkers joke that there’s enough drama for a reality show or comedy film, but he opted for a novel instead. The heightened intensity of science fiction horror appealed to him as a way to get the topic into the public eye.
“Wastewater is the original ‘green’ job,’” he says. “Even before the days of Rome, leaders were concerned about sanitation and clean water. Sanitation is modern civilization.”
Winston is now working on a series of short stories tentatively titled DARK TALES No. 1: PUBLIC WORKS Scary Tales from the Frontlines of the Working World. This ties in with his advice for anyone, public works employee or not, who’d like to write a book. “Write about something you have a passion for,” he says. “I could never pick up a pen and start writing a book about quilting. I’d die of boredom. Maybe you can. But you must be passionate about it. Pick something you’re interested in and then sit down and write.”
The Wastewater Plant is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
— Kelley Lindsey
Dodge Winston isn’t the only Public Works reader who writes books. Check out …
Denver Public Works Director Guillermo Vidal’s Boxing for Cuba: An Immigrant’s Story of Despair, Endurance & Redemption
Boswell Underwater Engineering Managing Director Michael J. Ganas’ The Girl who Rode with Dolphins