Everyone wins when an audit goes well. Thanks to the efforts of software developer Julia Ramirez, LLNL’s Environmental Restoration Department (ERD) has a lot to be happy about. Over the past five years, Julia has developed several tools and database-driven dynamic web applications that are helping Lab technicians, analysts, and geologists do their job more efficiently and effectively.

In particular, she’s helping ERD automate and streamline their processes for preparing reports and responding to audits. She regularly makes improvements to the department’s Self Monitoring Reporting (SMR) tool—which ERD heavily depends on during audits. Every two years, ERD is audited by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) to ensure that LLNL’s treatment facilities comply with air quality regulations.

“Several years ago, I added a section in SMR for our technicians to enter air quality logs when recording their monthly facility reports,” Julia said. “Prior to the air quality logs being entered in the database, they were being handwritten into logbooks. Once we made that upgrade, I was able to create an automated BAAQMD report tool. This report tool uses Perl scripts to pull all the air logs for the past 25 months from the Oracle database and then creates a PDF document that lists all ERD facilities and the corresponding air logs, along with other information such as facility hours, flow rates, and technician comments. The information is presented in an organized way that makes it easy for auditors to quickly review.”

In addition to reducing the prep time, the BAAQMD report tool makes it easier for the auditors to view the relevant data without sifting through dozens of handwritten books. In 2015, Julia completed and deployed the second phase of the project, which streamlines and reduces the report-editing task by 99%. A new jQuery dialog box into the SMR tool makes technicians choose from a standardized list of conditions and data.

“In the past, the free-form style of the air quality logs permitted the technicians to enter any verbiage they wanted, resulting in inconsistencies in terminology and nonstandard comments. Before each audit, edits had to be made to standardize the text. It was tedious. Now auditors can read the reports much more efficiently,” Julia said.

The changes Julia has made have decreased the overall audit response time from two weeks to two days. “It takes 1.5 minutes to create the report and then a couple of days to review and make any necessary adjustments,” she said. “Increasing the quality and consistency of reports saves everyone significant time and makes the job much easier for auditors.” Still, Julia says there is more streamlining work to be done. For instance, some LLNL facilities need to report special reasons for changing out carbon filters. These details need to be defined and added into the SMR tool.

“This is such a great job,” Julia said. “I love being able to apply software development to environmental restoration efforts. Being part of something positive is a wonderful feeling, even if it’s just cleaning up a small part of world. Working with smart, wonderful people like the ERD family makes coming to work a pleasure.”

Julia is also a hackathon regular who credits the thrice-annual events with giving her time to implement a capability that enables users to upload pictures and PDFs documenting the characteristics of wells to the ERD database.

When she’s not at work, you can find Julia cooking, wine tasting, or attending music festivals and concerts. She also enjoys spending time in her garden with her dog, Delia, and playing ukulele with her husband, Rudy.

—Rose Hansen