Guest Column | March 21, 2022

Navigating Through Uncharted Waters, Part Two: How Peter Ng Is Giving Back To His Community

By Sabrina Suzuki

Peter Ng with Supervisor Mark Middleton

In Part Two of Navigating Through Uncharted Waters, we caught up with Peter Ng, a Wastewater Technician who continues to help get wastewater samples for Covid research. At the beginning of the pandemic, Ng was tapped to be a Disaster Service Worker for the City and County of San Francisco helping to deliver food to the vulnerable population as well as be a translator to senior citizens. As Ng explains, this was something he was always meant to do.

Ng was deployed to support San Francisco’s COVID response as a Disaster Service Worker, part of the responsibility of being an employee for the City and County of San Francisco, just a few weeks after a state of emergency was declared due to the looming pandemic. The City set up the Emergency Operations Center (EOC), as mobilization of City resources to respond to COVID-19. Ng was tapped to help with food deliveries to vulnerable communities, including senior citizens, as well as to translate in Cantonese.  

“Sometimes they don’t speak or read English; all they knew was that they shouldn’t go out and should stay home and someone would deliver them food. They were scared," says Ng. "I’m the kind of person who likes to help people and do the outreach to the community to educate them."

It turns out the SFPUC wastewater worker of 10 years comes with many years of experience in communications. He received his bachelor’s degree in journalism from Chu Hai College in Hong Kong. He has a career that spans nearly 20 years, from being a Senior Reporter for Oriental Daily News, a Chinese-language newspaper in Hong Kong, to being a Chief Reporter for Chinese Times, the oldest running Chinese newspaper in San Francisco.

Ng was hired in 2012 as a Public Information Officer for the SFPUC’s, Fats, Oils & Grease (FOG) Control Program, where he was hired to help educate restaurants and other food service establishments on how to prevent pollutants – specifically grease and food scraps - from entering the sewer system and clogging the pipes and causing costly damage. He would go out with inspectors to help educate the merchants about the program, including doing outreach to Chinese restaurant owners acting as a translator.

"I learned the wastewater system from the ground up. I didn’t know what a sewer pipe was, a catch basin, or a manhole. I told my supervisor I was interested in learning more and I’m just happy that so many people trained me and helped me achieve my goal,” shares Ng.

Ng says he learned a lot by following the Field Monitoring Group, who does field sampling and monitoring. He later went on to become a Wastewater Technician. And while his day-to-day duties don’t appear to reflect what a typical Communications person would do, he explains that in many ways, it is.

"I just want to help as many people as I can, using my skills to do it. Working as a team also supports everyone to just being better human beings.”

A team of wastewater workers, including Ng, continue to take wastewater samples for Covid research. An effort that may continue indefinitely, until the pandemic ends. As for Ng, he says he will continue to do what he does best. 

“Teamwork is very important. I can speak Cantonese, my coworkers speak Spanish, Japanese…everyone has a talent. It’s especially important that team leaders know everyone’s strong suit of skills to create the strongest team possible.”

Navigating Through Uncharted Waters

The SFPUC’s Wastewater Enterprise has made many contributions during the pandemic from advancing Covid research as well as helping the City at large during the pandemic. From sampling of wastewater at convalescent homes to learning about the spread of the virus, to being Disaster Service Workers to deliver food to the under-served, stay tuned as we share “Navigating Through Uncharted Waters,” a series dedicated to highlighting the contributions of SFPUC’s wastewater workers.

Stay Tuned for Part Three of the Series on Navigating Through Uncharted Waters and learn how a tropical vacation inspired Wastewater’s Tim Paez to get into Environmental Science.