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Water Quality Technician
Water quality technicians/technologists are responsible for testing and monitoring water supplies and making certain water is safe. They perform a variety of technical duties, for example inspecting, sampling, monitoring, and testing, and work with both groundwater and surface water sources. Water quality technicians/technologists also routinely monitor compliance with federally and provincially mandated water quality requirements.
At a glanceImagine you are kneeling over a deep drinking-water well, carefully recording the data displayed on your electronic tape measure, which tells you how deep the water is inside the well. You are a water quality technician/technologist and you have been called in to gather samples and test water from private wells in the area. Several weeks ago, a small oil company constructed a sour gas well less than a kilometre away from some of these homes. Since then, the owners of the wells have been complaining of taste and odour problems with their water. Some have even reported suffering headaches, nausea, and vomiting. Because of these complaints, a comprehensive study has been ordered for each well. As a water quality technician/technologist, you have conducted dozens of comprehensive studies like this one on groundwater wells and surface water lakes and streams. You start your investigation by properly obtaining samples from each of the area wells. You've been trained to identify undesirable odours in water, including the rotten egg smell these residents are complaining of. If you can smell rotten eggs, you know this is an indicator of high levels of sulphur, hydrogen sulphide, iron bacteria, or sulphate-reducing bacteria in the water. You will test for most of these at the lab, but hydrogen sulphide presents a special problem. It can dissolve in water and vaporize, so by the time you get the samples to the lab, the hydrogen sulphide will be gone. To test for hydrogen sulphide, you will have to do it right at the well. The rest of the samples will be analyzed at the lab for parameters such as total dissolved solids, hardness, alkalinity, arsenic, uranium, pH, chlorine, sodium, lead, and bacteria. It can take weeks for you to run these tests, but they must be done to make certain the water from these wells is safe.
Job dutiesDuties vary significantly from job to job, but the following list includes typical job duties one might encounter as a water quality technician/technologist:
- Monitor drinking water parameters using field equipment, for example pH, conductivity, and total dissolved solids meters.
- Calibrate equipment and verify data.
- Perform distribution-system flushing operations.
- Collect and analyze samples.
- Organize water-sampling schedules.
- Perform water pressure tests for distribution systems using pressure-recording charts.
- Conduct bacteriological and chemical testing on samples collected using standard laboratory procedures.
- Monitor wells and other water sources.
- Enter and update data in testing and results databases.
Work environmentIn the lab:
- Preparing test solutions and processing samples
- Testing and analyzing samples
- Developing test methodology
- Calibrating and maintaining instruments
- Compiling, recording, and interpreting test results
- Analyzing data and preparing various records and reports related to water quality regulatory monitoring
- Communicating on the phone and in meetings with supervisors, clients, government departments, colleagues, and other scientists
- Collecting samples for analysis
- Participating in training sessions
Where to workThere are a number of places water quality technicians/technologists can find employment. They include:
- Federal, provincial/territorial, and municipal government departments
- Colleges, universities, and research institutes
- Environmental consulting firms
- Firms in other industries, for example oil and gas, pharmaceuticals, manufacturing, food production, and health care
Education & requirementsIf you are a high school student considering a career as a water quality technician/technologist, you should have strong marks or an interest in:
- Computer Science
- Water Resources
- Environmental Technology
- Environmental Science
- Pure and Applied Science