The sudden departure of the town’s senior water operator from the municipal payroll has left Princeton without a worker certified to operate its water distribution system under provincial guidelines.
However director of infrastructure Michael Mazurek says the town is following protocols to manage the situation, and there are other competent town staffers who can oversee the system at this time.
“The security and safety of Princeton water has and will always be at the top of our priority list,” said Mazurek. “From a public works perspective the quality and safety of our water and water system are not compromised by the lack of a Level 3 operator. The water system is, in fact, the same water system that it was before this change in staff.”
Britt Fraser, who worked for the municipality for more than a decade, left the town’s employ October 20.
Mazurek could not comment on the circumstances surrounding that move.
It leaves the town with two public works employees who have some water distribution certification for the system, but neither with the Level 3 certification required to operate the Princeton facility.
Water operators perform various duties including sampling water for analysis, regulating water quality and production, analyzing instrument readings and making adjustments to equipment, monitoring chemical supplies and maintaining and repairing equipment.
“The Town of Princeton’s water system is currently rated as a Level 3 water distribution system by the Environment Operators Certification Program. This rating normally requires that at least one operator working on the system be certified to that level…Many municipalities are struggling with this as a requirement.”
Mazurek said that it was only in 2016 that Princeton came into compliance with the regulations to begin with. The town’s water distribution system was classified as Level 3 fourteen years ago. Level 3 operators are in high demand, he added.
“This is the same situation the town had been in since the year 2003 when our water system was classified as a Level 3 water system,” he said.
Classifications are determined by a system’s size and complexity.
Of the remaining water system operators one is a Level 2 who is now working on additional credits and logging time to achieve Level 3 status. A Level 1 operator needs to meet certain requirements to maintain his credentials in good standing with EOCP, and will work towards Level 2 certification.
Mazurek could not estimate when a Level 3 operator will be in place.
“It depends…Our water operators are responsible for other duties. We don’t have enough water work on a day-to-day basis to make it a sole responsibility of one person. Everybody who works for the town has to do many things.”
As required by the province Mazurek has contacted both Interior Health and the provincial health ministry to advise them of Fraser’s departure.
“We will continue to work very closely with Interior Health, as we have always endeavored to do, until we have a Level 3 water distribution operator working for the Town of Princeton,” he said.
Mazurek said he could not overstress the safety and efficiency of the Princeton water system.
“The town is required to have an emergency response plan to effectively handle a variety of water issues that may arise and affect the health of the water supply. This plan is on file at the town hall and available for review upon request.”
Fraser was also the only public works employee holding a certification in waste water treatment, although no certification is required under the town’s permits to operate that system, he said.
“We do a very simple method of water treatment and that is aeration. We don’t use any chemicals and we don’t use any other process.”
However, he added, “that’s another area where we are looking to expand our skill sets as a group.”