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Three Toughest Water and Wastewater Jobs

For those of us who aren’t in the water and wastewater industry, we can form our own ideas as to what goes on behind the scenes. But people who work in this industry provide one of the most underrated, yet valuable services that is a essential to life 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Below is a crash course as to the realities of what actually goes on in both small and large water and wastewater plants.
 
UpdateReader Submission from LinkedIn
Kathleen Cameron
President & Senior Environmental Director at Dagaz Environmental Inc.

Add wastewater remediation equipment installer to that list – been there and done that and just about ended up on more than one occasion in the shit with a face full. Its slippery and extremely stinky work, installing equipment on lagoon systems already in operation (which many of our installation typically go on). We do at times take precautions and use oxygen equipment which can then make the installation that much more cumbersome however being safer in potentially deadly situations is vital. We also ensure there are adequate individuals that can assist if ‘situations’ arise that need extra personnel to ensure safety. Chemicals and shit can be ‘interesting’ to say the least to do installations on.

 
Water and Wastewater Treatment Plant and System Operators
As plant and system operators, they manage a complex system of machines in order to transfer or treat water and wastewater. The operators make sure equipment, control panels, and monitors are running smoothly. In addition to the machinery side, operators also perform the following tasks:

  • Collect and test water and sewage samples
  • Add chemicals, such as ammonia or chlorine, to disinfect water or other liquids
  • Record meter and gauge readings and operational data
  • Operate equipment to purify and clarify water or to process or dispose of sewage
  • Clean and maintain equipment, tanks, filter beds, and other work areas
  • Follow U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations
  • Ensure safety standards are met

It is also good to note that during harsh weather conditions, like snowstorms or floods, operators are on high alert. They need to make sure the plant’s capacity doesn’t exceeded its limits due to large amounts of storm water or wastewater flowing into sewers. Even plant malfunctions like chemical leaks or oxygen deficiencies can add to the chaos.
 
All operators work both indoors and outdoors, which exposes them to loud machinery noises and putrid smells. The work is typically physically straining and performed in areas that may be unclean or difficult to access.
 
They are also aware of safety protocols due to hazardous conditions, like dangerous gases and leaks, wet pathways, and defective machines. Generally, operators experience an occupational injury and illness rate that is much higher than the average for all occupants.
 

 
Water and Wastewater Tank Cleaning
What is often described as the dirtiest, smelliest, and grossest job on the planet – only for those who don’t actually do it – sewer diving is absolutely essential in maintaining high health standards and function in the wastewater industry. Sewer divers often perform maintenance with zero visibility. Everything is done by touch. This is a job reserved for those brave souls willing to be covered in shit. Literally.
 
Metro-AGE
photo from theage.com.au
 
Just thinking of it can induce Oscar-worthy cringes, but Brendan Walsh, who has been diving in human waste for more than 25 years, says that “it’s full-encapsulation diving, which means you’re fully dry inside the suit, it has sealed cuffs on it, and the suit connects onto the diver’s helmet so nothing touches the skin. We don’t come out smelling at all because there’s no contact.” But there are some precautions that need to be taken seriously – like tears in the suit and suit flooding. Also, according to Walsh, he has his team get injected with every inoculation on the market due to the number of diseases squirming around.
 

 
Lift Pump Replacement Technician
As a lift pump replacement technician, or water and sewer technician, one installs, maintains, and repairs pumps, motors and other machinery associated with the water distribution, wastewater collection and treatment systems. To replace a broken lift pump, a technician will often submerge or swim through human waste.
 
Some other tasks water and sewer technicians do include:

  • Installing pumps, controllers and timing devices, and assisting in the installation of telemetering equipment.
  • Cleans the wastewater collection system of debris such as grease, sand, roots and rocks using a jet rodder or mechanical rodding equipment.
  • Paints and applies preservative to piping, metal and mechanical equipment parts to prevent corrosion.

 

 

TNphoto Tatsuya Nakagawa
Tatsuya Nakagawa is the VP of Marketing and co-founder of Castagra Products, a storage tank and wastewater coatings manufacturing company that is highly acclaimed for its sustainable coatings and cold weather coating applications. Castagra products are NSF-61 certified and are used by the world’s top water and wastewater contractors.