Mel Paul, a Level One Certified Operator at the Kamloops Indian Band Water Treatment Plant, has so far enjoyed a career of 8 years in this field. He is concerned with providing “safe and healthy drinking water for his community.” He stresses that his job at the KIB Water Treatment Plant is more diverse than the same job would be at a municipal or community one, where the many jobs are performed by specific employees. Mel performs many duties in his position.

As a Water Treatment Plant Operator, Mel performs 3 rounds of tests per day for imperfections in the water such as iron, turbidity, chlorine residual, and aluminum. He takes samples from 3 spots in the system: the beginning, the middle, and the end. This is made necessary by the Health Canada authority. Mel incubates the samples for 24 hours as part of his tests, and, once a month, is required to send some away to be checked by a credited lab.

As a Water Treatment Plant Operator who performs tests to ensure clean, healthy drinking water in a water system, Mel feels strongly that bottled water might not be as safe to drink.

Mel describes the process of how the water for the plant flows directly from the Thompson River (which flows from Shuswap Lake) into a 60 foot well for raw water, where the first treatment, coagulation, is performed. Coagulation involves adding a chemical to the water.

Pumps then move that treated water up to another building, where the other steps of treatment are performed. Because Mel’s plant does the 4 regular treatment steps, it’s called a conventional water treatment plant. The coagulated water moves slowly through mixing basins to a spot where the flocculation settles at the bottom to form a sludge. This part of the process is called sedimentation.

After sedimentation, the clear water on top moves on to filtration through a filter of anthracite and sand. This step removes the remaining flocculation from the water.

After filtration, chlorine is added to the water for disinfection, and the water runs into a million-litre clear well. From the well, water is then distributed to the water system, or to a few reservoirs. The Kamloops Indian Band Water Treatment Plant sends water to two reservoirs that are owned by the Band, and also provides water to two other reservoirs outside of the Band’s control.

Mel feels that his job has a great future, and that it would be a great career for others to get into. He stresses that a shortage of certified Operators exists, especially in more rural areas. Mel underlines that with training from places like TRU, training is assured, and opportunities are made easier. The way Mel sees it, clean water is extremely important. For example, he says, “you put all the medical discoveries together, and it still doesn’t account for the amount of lives saved by just by having clean water.”

Video by: Greg Sawisky

Description by: Conrad Scott

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