The Fire Chief Project: Why the clean water profession needs more respect

Raising the status of clean-water operators and the clean-water profession

Interested in Education/Training?

Get Education/Training articles, news and videos right in your inbox! Sign up now.

Education/Training + Get Alerts

In April’s issue of Treatment Plant Operator, I launched The Fire Chief Project, a long-term effort to elevate the stature of people in the clean-water profession, and of the profession itself.

The Fire Chief Project has two simple aims:
· That clean-water operators have the same stature with the public as the fire chief
· That boys and girls grow up wanting to be clean-water operators

I also introduced this initiative at the 2013 Wastewater Operators Conference sponsored by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, March 20-22 in Brooklyn Park. My keynote address on the topic drew positive response and some interesting commentary afterward.

The Fire Chief Project depends on your participation. What have you done, what are you doing, and what will you do to advance the public stature of the profession and interest young people in clean-water careers.

Why does The Fire Chief Project matter? What’s the difference if people don’t look up to the treatment plant superintendent in the same way they look up to the fire chief? Who cares if kids would rather grow up to be firefighters? We do you job, we do it well, and that’s enough, right?

Well, not exactly, and for two reasons. First, the wastewater infrastructure needs public investment, and in these times of “don’t raise my taxes, don’t raise my rates,” people will not support investment in an entity they don’t understand, appreciate and respect.

Second, the clean-water operator ranks are aging. Many will retire in the next five to 10 years. New people are needed to replace them. Young people will not be attracted to a career they don’t understand, don’t know exists, or already think negatively about.

The Fire Chief Project aims to encourage progress on both those fronts. There will be more to come on this blog and in TPO magazine. In the meantime, tell your stories. Tell me about your attractive plant signage or landscaping. Your tour program. Your school outreach. Your spiffy team work uniforms. Anything that makes the profession look great is fair game. I will pass your stories along to TPO readers.

Start today. Send an email to


Comments on this site are submitted by users and are not endorsed by nor do they reflect the views or opinions of COLE Publishing, Inc. Comments are moderated before being posted.