Keeping the commitment

I am a top-level certified water operator in the state of Colorado. I proudly work at a local municipality, and I consider myself blessed. I have a responsibility and a commitment to the public. I am honored to take care of their health when it comes to drinking water.

In regards to the article, “A Look Back at Flint” (TPO, July 2016), I believe that if operators do not possess a passion for public health and safety, then they are in the wrong profession.

I have heard too many times of operators either cheating or plotting to cheat on their state certification exams. I would feel uncomfortable letting a heart surgeon work on my body if he or she had cheated through medical school.

I think the public should have the confidence in the proper training and education of water operators. Treatment should be performed within the regulations and by properly certified staff who are willing to report and strive to fix abnormalities. Public health and safety is our No. 1 priority. Always. Period.

Zach Gilbert, CWP
Water Plant Operator
City of Fort Collins (Colorado) Utilities

Who’s really at fault?

I’m glad you touched on the operator in Flint. With all that has been written, you are the first to mention the operator, except for his wrongful indictment. Had you gone further, you would have discovered that the operator’s boss, the Public Works director, was unqualified to supervise him or the wastewater operators.
The Public Works director was a solar panel installer who shouldn’t have been appointed.  Where are the professional watchdogs when it comes to these kinds of appointments? Where are they on the task forces reviewing the operation? No one on the Michigan task force had any operations experience. The Public Works director or the mayor should have been indicted, not the operator.

Robert E. Adamski, P.E., BCEE, F.SAME, F.ASCE

‘What would I do?’

You give valuable thought as to what may have been going through the minds of operators in Flint. I am sure a lot of operators would grumble and complain; some might even take a stand. There are also those who would merely shrug and buy bottled water, regrettably.

What would I do if I discovered a cover-up like that? First, I verify that it was indeed a cover-up and not a case of “I thought somebody else was on it.” I have witnessed that scenario more times than I care to remember, thankfully always related to relatively minor issues.

If I did indeed verify a cover-up, I would have to get all of my ducks in a row, so to say. Sacrificing my career by blindly charging ahead would serve no good purpose as I would be discredited without hard evidence. Once I was properly prepared and ready for the likely repercussions of my actions, then I would take steps to fix the problem. Start low on the chain of command and work my way up, understanding that time is of the essence and every day that the problem exists increases the risks to the public.

Chances are, my tenure would come to an end. That is acceptable. We have a responsibility to provide cost-efficient, palatable, safe drinking water to every person who turns on a tap. It is not merely a job, but also a duty and honor to which we have been entrusted.

When I interviewed for my current position, I was asked a very important question: Would I falsify records to protect myself or the city? Would I do so if directed to by my superiors or others? My answer was a very firm, “No, and if that is something that I could be asked I am not the right person for the position.”
Would my family be supportive? Absolutely. My wife recently lost a job to which she was dedicated because she refused to not follow proper sampling techniques. Her superior instructed her to continue as previous operators had and she refused.

Raymond Page
Treatment Supervisor
City of Brookings, Oregon


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