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FORT MCMURRAY: THE LAST MAN STANDING IS A WATER OPERATOR
Posted on 15 June 2016 by cohu44
Utility management, Water plant operator,
Heroes are made, not born. While the Fort McMurray fire raged, Guy Jette, a water operator for the last 38 years, was a veritable last man standing and was able to supply water to fight the worst fire ever recorded in Canada.
As noted in a CBC article “Fort McMurray’s water warrior fought to keep the flow to firefighters going”, Jette, head of operation at the water treatment centre in the city, had to make some tough decisions. A summary of the article can be found below.
As a water operator, water quality is a chief concern. For Guy Jette, it’s “both his personal passion and chief responsability.” The Fort McMurray fires changed all that on May 3rd.
“The city was on fire, and there wasn’t enough water,” reads an article by Briar Stewart and Terry Reith.
Fort McMurray was already under mandatory evacuation, “but Jette and nine others stayed behind, glued to the computer screens in the water treatment plant’s control room” to try and distribute water to the right areas.
The article describes that “as their communication systems, which track their water levels in the reservoirs” were failing, Jette and his team had no choice but to go “old school” and gage “where water was needed the most” by looking out the window of the control room.
As the situation unfolded dramatically upon Jette and the team, he was placed in an incredibly difficult situation. There just wasn’t enough water. “Fort McMurray’s water treatment facility is three years old, and while it had four newly installed filters that could double the water output, the equipment hadn’t yet been fully commissioned. Regulations required that Jette do a test for a bacteria before starting them up, but it would take 24 hours to get the results.”
Jette made a call. He told officials that he would “push through more water”, a decision that turned out to be a game changer as “the plant went from pushing out 30 million litres of water a day to 86 million litres.” But it still wasn’t enough.
Jette then made another very tough call. He reached out to an oil company and asked to install a pump into a raw water reservoir. This move would “allow Jette to pump river water directly into the system.” This was incredibly risky as it would bypass the treatment facility. Risks include: contamination and a boil water advisory that could last all summer long. This proved to be a lucky gambit.
In the end, the results from the bacteria tests performed on the filters came back negative. Nothing is quite back to normal yet for the water plant and Jette and his team. “A month later, the entire water system now needs to go through a flush,” still, Jette made incredibly difficult decisions while under duress for the benefit of the community. And his actions, while they cannot be measured, tell us one thing, in an emergency, you want people like Jette calling the shots.
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Stewart, B. & Reith, T. (2016). Fort McMurray's water warrior fought to keep the flow to firefighters going. CBC News. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/fort-mcmurray-water-treatment-plant-1.3617505
Ross, A. (2016). Fort McMurray water technicians stayed behind to save vital service. CBC News. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/fort-mcmurray-water-1.3570329
Pruden, J.G. (2016). A week in Hell: How Fort McMurray burned. The Globe And Mail. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/a-week-in-hell-how-fort-mcmurrayburned/article29932799/
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