When severe weather causes water flows to rise, Wastewater Treatment Plant Operators like Brian work hard to keep harmful contaminants from entering the river – so you can enjoy everything it has to offer.
If a massive wall of water came rushing at you, how would you react? It's a situation Brian faces each summer in Edmonton. As an operator at the Gold Bar Wastewater treatment facility, it's his job to ensure everything flows smoothly — even when a huge surge of storm water is heading his way. On average, the plant handles around 300 megalitres of wastewater per day, but in a severe summer storm seasonsituation, inflows can reach up to 1,800 megalitres in just a matter of hours.
"When the flows come up quickly, the whole plant basically goes on red alert," says Brian. "You have to react fast."
As soon as they receive word of incoming storms, the facility goes on standby. He and his team know they will have to deal with grit, debris and other impurities coming into the plant at a much higher rate than normal, while ensuring clean, uncontaminated water is flowing back into the river at a similar rate. It's a delicate balance that tests the limits of the plant — and its staff — through periods of heavy rain.
"It's hectic when a storm hits. We've got double the amount of sludge coming into our plant," he says.
On a particularly bad night, lightning struck a pole nearby, cutting power to the plant. Brian and his crew had to operate everything manually, working twice as hard to ensure everything went as close to plan as possible. Thankfully, his crew has plenty of experience to lean on in tough situations.
"Once you've been here for a while, you just know what you have to do when that kind of flow hits the plant hard," Brian explains.
It's a challenge his crew has come to enjoy.
"Working here, we go through some pretty sticky situations," he says. "But we have a lot of fun with it. We know what we're doing."
And despite the obvious sewage jokes Schneider and his team sometimes exchange, the work they do to guard the North Saskatchewan River and protect public health is serious business.
"That's what this plant does, and I'm really proud to be a part of it."