Why a Water Regulatory Specialist Fights for Environmental Justice

As a Regulatory Specialist in the SFPUC’s Water Enterprise over the last three years, Jowin “JJ” Jung most enjoys collaborating with different people across the agency. 

She works with her team to ensure compliance with what’s known as the Unified Program, including: 

  • Hazardous Materials Release Response Plans and Inventories Program
  • California Accidental Release Prevention Program
  • Underground Storage Tank Program
  • Aboveground Storage Tank Program
  • Hazardous Waste Generator and Onsite Hazardous Waste Treatment Program
  • California Uniform Fire Code: Hazardous Material Management Plans and Hazardous Material Inventory Statements Program

It’s a big job. Jung supports permitting, updating emergency response plans, and training requirements to ensure the SFPUC complies with regulations that protect fellow colleagues, customers, and communities that the agency serves.

While permitting and plans are an important piece of Jung’s work at the SFPUC, what she enjoys most about her role is the ability to work with diverse groups of people.

“Working with people and understanding how they think helps me communicate better. It can be challenging because I’m occasionally met with resistance,” said Jung. “It’s important to work together.”

Jung joked that she is not in a well-liked position because she often has to say, “You can’t do that, it’s a violation.” However, she likes working with her colleagues to find solutions on correcting violations and addressing safety concerns.

Since San Francisco’s public health order requiring non-essential employees to shelter-in-place, Jung says she misses seeing her colleagues’ smiles, especially when she can offer support. The bigger picture, smaller details, and ability to physically see her coworker’s faces have become more challenging over the last several weeks, so she’s had to practice asking more questions to get most of the situation.

Jowin Jung with her daughter.

Jung believes it is important to have colleagues representative of all backgrounds and experiences. As an Asian American woman in the utilities industry, Jung expressed that sustainability and environment jobs are not traditional career fields in her culture.

“However, we need that look like us and have experiences similar to ours at the table to decide on policies concerning our community,” she shared. “Environmental injustice is caused by misguided regulatory policies, unequal regulation enforcement, and unequal political power, that’s why it’s so important to have good representation in the environmental field. At the SFPUC, we know representation and diversity are our strengths.”

With a background in environmental justice, Jung says she strives to fight for the fair treatment and involvement of all people, regardless of ethnicity, nationality, sex, and income. Jung is particularly motivated to ensure air and water pollution do not occur in low-income communities and communities of color.

Of the SFPUC’s six core values, Jung most resonates with stewardship and diversity. “The SFPUC is a big agency and we have great powers, which brings great responsibility,” she said. “Especially managing resources like water in a sustainable manner.” She strongly believes in protecting the environment through conservation and sustainable practices by protecting environmental stewardship.

“Our actions can help reduce waste, clean up water, and provide biological diversity,” said Jung. “I hope I can use my background and experience in regulatory compliance, passion for the environment, and thoughtfulness in adopting methods to support the Water Supply and Treatment Division will help the SFPUC take more steps toward the right direction.”

Jowin Jung (right) collaborating with a colleague before San Francisco’s shelter-in-place order went into effect.