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DRIVE AND DETERMINATION LANDS WATER OPERATOR POSITION
FluksAqua Community, Water and wastewater community, Water plant operator,
Nathan Pray, a Water Treatment Operator with the City of Brantford in Ontario, originally wanted to be an electrician. But once he explored the length of time it took to become a fully licensed electrician, he reconsidered and decided to follow his first passion for the environment. He enrolled in and completed the Environmental Management program at the University of Guelph, Ridgetown Campus.
“I wasn’t sure what type of job I would get out of school until we wrote our Operator-in-Training exam,” Pray says. “I got a certificate that said I could do a specific job for the rest of my life and that changed everything. I made it my passion to become a water and wastewater operator.”
While he had a clear vision, Pray’s career path took a few twists before he found his way into the water industry. He went on more than 40 job interviews but got no offers. He was working as the West Nile Virus lead at his local health unit and studied for his Level 1 water operator certificate. He also got a DZ license* because he was told it would increase his chances of getting a job in the industry. He completed his Walkerton Clean Water Centre (WCWC) Entry Level Drinking Water Operator course to help give him an edge on his resume. This seems to be the reality for the new generation of young professionals, and the water sector has not been spared.
GETTING IN THE DOOR
He finally broke through with some help from his favourite instructor who helped him land a role as a plant administrator in the recycling industry.
“It was one of the best jobs I ever had because it gave me a large variety of experience,” Pray explains. “I got to supervise staff, drive roll off and forklift trucks, improve health and safety standards and even assist in the hiring process. But I realized contracts come and go so I would be better with a stable operator job. I went back to studying and looking in the water industry.”
He got his big break with the Walkerton Clean Water Centre as a research assistant. He enjoyed the job but his yearn to be a water and wastewatern operator remained. He basically bugged his boss until he agreed to send Pray to the Hanover Water Treatment Plant twice a week for operating experience. In his two years at Walkerton, he gained 11 months of operating experience which was the maximum the Ministry would allow him to attain without being employed as an operator.
Still shy of his Level 1, he translated his Walkerton and Hanover experience into a position at Veolia Water in Nanticoke, Ontario. Pray attributes this position to kick starting his career as he got to learn the job, deal with shift work and show off his jar testing skills.
He obtained his Level 3 at Nanticoke but jumped at an opportunity with the City of Brantford so he could complete his Level 4 certification and Level 2 distribution certificates. Brantford also offered a more advanced facility with actiflo, ozone, biological filters, UV, chloramination and belt presses.
ADVICE FOR WOULD-BE WATER OPERATOR
Now that he has achieved a major career milestone, Pray can offer some advice to people looking to becoming Level 4 operators:
Pray identifies climate change as one of the most important challenges facing the industry in the future. The wastewater discharges from excessive amounts of rain are increasing and it is reason for concern.
“I believe there are 23 wastewater plants upstream of Brantford which all contribute more and more pollution to the Grand River,” Pray says. “I recently canoed down the Grand River and you see toilet paper and wipes hanging from all the vegetation. It is disgusting but wastewater facilities are not to blame for this. I recommend checking out TVO’s Water Brothers Show online. The episode titled “The Big Leak” discusses this issue in-depth and is very informative.”
Pray uses industry conferences, magazines and Twitter as well as the FluksAqua forum to stay connected to his fellow water operators. He is a strong supporter of staying connected and encourages operators to volunteer for their local AWWA chapter committees.
He uses the FluksAqua forum several times a month and has success finding many of the answers he needs including ones to support his technology report.
He also uses Twitter (@npray42) to try and stay connected with his Brantford community though he is working on building a bigger following so more people can hear the message. He wants to try and discourage people from flushing so-called “flushable wipes” since they clog up the system. He is also a big promoter of tap water.
OUTSIDE THE OFFICE
Pray enjoys music outside of the office and is usually in multiple bands at any given time. At the moment, his main one is a cover band called Molly Dyer that plays hits from the 1990s up to 2005. He also loves to canoe and camp. His shift work allows him many solo canoe adventures during the week.
Tell us your story
We want to hear your story! How did you come to work in the water and wastewater sector? What advice do you have for the new generation?
FluksAqua will be writing a blog series featuring water and wastewater operators around the World to promote this career path to the new generation.
If you are interested in being part of our blog series, please send an email to Nadia Koukoui at firstname.lastname@example.org
Looking for your next career move?
*An Ontario Class DZ License allows you to drive vehicles with Air Brakes such as Straight Trucks, Dump Trucks, Cement Trucks, Garbage/Recycling Trucks, and Rescue & Fire Trucks. A Class DZ License is required to operate a vehicle over 11, 000 Kg gross weight or registered gross weight with a towed trailer not over 4,600 Kg. If your towed trailer exceeds 4,600 Kg, you will need to upgrade to Class AZ License. A DZ license allows to drive trucks with air brakes such as roll off trucks for sludge hauling or dump trucks for work in distribution.