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Found a calling

Wastewater and water treatment have changed my life. Both professional areas have given me purpose, changed my outlook directionally and offered goals to work toward for the environment, communities and for me personally. The drive and passion that I’ve always had didn’t have direction until now.

The question of where to apply my love for science and the environment was answered for my career path when wastewater and water treatment were introduced to me. The other question — what is my purpose? — was also answered by the water industry, opening new doors I never even considered walking through.

Graduating with college degrees in engineering and communications left me undecided and confused with life and my career. The confusion unfortunately took me down a path that landed me in prison. The ironic part is that this path introduced me to this terrific industry. Amidst all of the tragedy, I had finally found my calling. Finding that answer despite the situation resolved the toughest question that plagued me my entire adult life. Water treatment and wastewater fulfill all of my personal passions and interests.

Water is our most important resource and should be treated as such. It is vital to the survival of the human race and our planet. Treatment plant operators and everyone else should do everything possible to preserve and protect this resource. The quality of health and life for us and future generations should be a priority, and this industry can lead the way by integrating ourselves and new technologies into plant operations.

As you stated in your article in the June 2016 edition, “It’s no longer simply about getting water clean. It’s about taking in wastewater and extracting the resources it contains: clean water nutrients and energy. At the same time, there are big advances in the processes involved.” This statement, along with the big innovations sweeping through the industry, sparked even further excitement in me.

I have been working at a Class 3 activated sludge wastewater facility for 10 months straight in the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation prison system. Working seven days a week, nine hours a day along with the chief operator’s guidance, I have earned a Grade II wastewater license and will be taking the Water Treatment II and Water Distribution II exams next month. Even though I’m in prison, even though I’m away from my family, I’m doing something I believe in while paying my debt to society and rehabilitating.

In closing, I’m excited about the path I’m on. The water industry will be my permanent career. My goal is to be a fixture in helping communities and helping our struggling environment by treating the water I receive and the water I deliver back.

Michael Enstad
Pilot Rock Correctional Center
Crestline, California

Asking for a chance

I’m currently incarcerated, and I’ve had the privilege to learn about the operation of wastewater and drinking water treatment plants. I’ve learned that if I don’t get licensed before my release from prison, it will be extremely difficult to obtain a job.

Many ex-offenders who have completed these courses are unable to acquire the hands-on training hours needed to receive their licenses and are told by companies that if they do not possess their licenses, they cannot be hired. I feel this policy is wrong and should be changed. This resource of future operators should be utilized. Most of these potential operators already have completed their classes and have taken and passed their state exams. All they need is the hands-on training time to activate their licenses.

My proposal is that you use your many resources to inform employers of this resource and try to convey that it would be a benefit to all if this resource were put to use. In a time when many operators are retiring and filling vacancies is difficult, every source of potential operators should be taken advantage of.

My current status is that I may not be able to activate my license before I am released. This situation is stressing and vexing to say the least. If there is anything you can do to aid me and the many ex-offenders who are going to go through this situation, please do what you can. We’re striving to right our wrongs and be productive citizens.
Daniel J. Murillo, Operator Trainee
Marion Correctional Institution
Lowell, Florida


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