Careers in cleaning water enable role models to give back
- Angela Hill | November 01, 2017
Clean water created long careers and healthy lives for Darren Pooyak and Edgar Wright. Now they are using their knowledge and training to ensure communities across Saskatchewan have access to the resource.
“Something that is always needed is clean water,” said Pooyak from his home on Sweet Grass First Nation.
“Without clean water, life is difficult.”
He has been working in water and wastewater management for more than two decades. Wright, from Moosomin First Nation, has a similar story working in a number of places before taking a job at the City of North Battleford water treatment plant. It’s where Pooyak and Wright met and became friends.
The two have gone on to positions with SaskWater as Circuit Rider Trainers, visiting First Nations to work with the operators of the community’s water treatment plants.
“We go out and help the operators run their water plants,” said Wright.
A lot of work is done over the phone, with water plant operators calling and troubleshooting with the circuit rider trainers. Pooyak and Wright each have seven communities assigned to them – they try to visit each one at least once a month.
“We’re just there to help train the operators with proper procedures, proper testing issues,” said Pooyak.
“We’re there to provide technical support.”
It’s not always easy, he said some communities don’t have the funding to pay for everything that needs to be done, or give the operators a fulltime wage.
Sometimes the trainers find that not all the safety measures are in place. In these cases, they work with the operators to report the issues and sometimes they go above that.
Pooyak mentions lending his own safety equipment, or in some cases they call for outside help. Pooyak says he realizes these are more costs for the often already cash-strapped on-reserve water treatment plans, but “I’d rather see somebody else do it safely.”
While they work with communities, Wright says they are able to continue to learn more information to share.
“The more we see in these water plants, the more we can give recommendations.”
He credits the strict regime in North Battleford after a cryptosporidium outbreak for teaching him a lot.
“And we just carried it over to the reserves. Everybody needs safe, healthy water even First Nations communities,” he said.
Pooyak’s training started even before that. He said he attended the first Indian and Northern Affairs Canada water and waste water training program.
“So, in my eyes, I’ve come a long ways to where I am no longer the student, I am now the teacher, I guess you could say,” he said and laughed.
Both have been called role models by others, but both are modest when it comes to their accomplishments.
“Give it a try, don’t be shy, don’t hold back,” said Pooyak, when talking about what he says to youth, including his own four children.
He spends a lot of time in the community, volunteering coaching soccer in the summer and hockey in the winter. He’s also been at the last eight First Nations Winter and Summer games as a coach.
On what success looks like, Wright says he’s out there working, contributing and helping other communities. One of his biggest accomplishments has been raising his three kids. He wants to see all three graduate high school – something he didn’t do.
“I just would like to see my kids succeed, especially with the rate on reserve of the kids not graduating,” he said.
“I’m hoping to go three for three, if I go three for three, I’ll be a happy man.”
His son graduated this year and his daughter is set to be a 2018 grad.
Wright said his kids saw him work hard to get where he is, saw he had to travel 60 kilometres each way to get to North Battleford from home.
“A lot of gas, a lot of travelling, a lot of late nights,” he said.
He wants that ethic to rub off on his kids.
“You guys can have an awesome life, it’s up to you guys.”