LINDSBORG — Behind every glass of clean water is a water operator.
These city employees work behind the scenes to provide safe drinking water to their communities by employing different forms of technology and a little bit of elbow grease. Becoming a water operator does not require a college degree, but does require hard work and the willingness to perform physical work.
“It’s more of a challenge to find people to go and do a job with manual labor and physical work,” said Chris Lindholm, Public Works Director in Lindsborg.
There are days where getting dirty will be necessary, but it’s not the stereotypical dirty job some may have in mind.
“There’s a lot of days your doing some testing, checking things, exercising fire hydrants, in a small community, theres days they’re helping the electrical department and helping the street department, everyone works together,” he said. “So its not a stereotypical job, a lot of days guys walk out of here they look just as clean as they came in the morning.”
There are four levels of water operators that some businesses require. In order to become a Water Operator I, a worker must be employed for one year before training and testing is available to move up the ladder. A number of vocational colleges offer 18-week courses for employees looking to attain the next level.
“It gives you a very good basis preparing for testing and certification,” Lindholm said.
Another important part of their job is understanding the Supervisory Control and Data Acquisitions system, or SCADA.
“SCADA is an industrial computer system the monitors and controls a process. It is a complex system of computers, network communications, Programmable Logic Controllers, PID controllers, sensors and output devices that work together to allow a system to run itself based on parameters set in by the programming and by the operator. SCADA is a design that allows a management system to monitor a process and based on the data continually collected, make control decisions to achieve a desired outcome,” Lindholm explained.
Lindholm said the field is experiencing a shortage of workers, due to the immense amount of work and responsibility put into their hands.
“I don’t think people understand the responsibility involved, especially when you’re in a smaller community. We have a couple of people in each position and when it comes down to it, you and maybe one other person are responsible for an entire community for having safe drinking water,” Lindholm explained. “So it’s tough to find people to truly want to have that responsibility.”
With no college degree, Lindholm said a high school student willing to work could easily get this job.
“If you show you have interest, you like to learn, there’s always going to be a need for waste water and waste water technology,” he said.
Lindsborg Public Works is hiring a Water Operator II to take care of the water supply to the city of Lindsborg.
The Water Operator II will be in charge of diagnosing problems in water whether that be a simple piping leak, an electrical problem with a pump, manual labor, dinging up dirt to get to pipes and more.
Lindholm explained since an employee who is currently holding the Water Operator II position is close to retiring, they are looking for someone with more experience than they normally would.
"Usually we will hire someone with no experience, bring them along to get them qualified, tested and certified. But now the fact one is getting close to retirement, we are trying to find somebody that has experience, so were bringing in we know they don't have to learn everything, just our system and not everything else that has to go along with it," he said.
For more information, contact the Lindsborg Public Works Department at 785-227-3428 or visit their website at http://lindsborgcity.org/index.aspx?nid=38.
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