Mak­ing sure it’s fit to drink

Bay de Verde wa­ter op­er­a­tor wins award

The Compass - - NEWS - BY ANDREW ROBIN­SON edi­tor@CBN­com­pass.ca

Dale Walsh was one of many peo­ple faced with a dif­fi­cult fu­ture fol­low­ing the col­lapse of the cod fish­ery in the 1990s.

A for­mer fish plant worker now with­out a job, the Bay de Verde na­tive needed to find a new ca­reer path. In 1997, he started do­ing some work for the mu­nic­i­pal­ity, ini­tially col­lect­ing garbage be­fore later get­ting in­volved in wa­ter­line re­pairs, snow clear­ing and other jobs re­lated to main­te­nance.

When the town’s main­te­nance op­er­a­tor left his job in 2001, Bay de Verde Mayor Ger­ard Mur­phy en­cour­aged Walsh to take over.

“I wasn’t struck on it,” he ad­mit­ted when speak­ing with The Com­pass last week at the town hall. “But any­how, a cou­ple of months later the mayor got talk­ing to me. ‘It’s a good po­si­tion,’ he said. And I said, ‘Al­right, I’ll give it a try, and if I don’t like it, I’ll throw it down again.’”

Fif­teen years later, Walsh is still the town’s main­te­nance op­er­a­tor. Last month at the 15th An­nual Clean and Safe Drink­ing Wa­ter Work­shop in Gan­der, he was de­clared Wa­ter Op­er­a­tor of the Year among mu­nic­i­pal em­ploy­ees across New­found­land and Labrador.

“I was as­ton­ished re­ally,” said Walsh, ea­ger to credit town clerk Tara North for pre­par­ing the nom­i­na­tion. It was North who told him on the spur of the mo­ment he had to go to Gan­der.

“I said, ‘Why have I got to go?’ And she said, ‘You won the op­er­a­tor of the year award.’ I said, ‘Per­fect. I’ll be leav­ing to­mor­row af­ter din­ner!’”

Bay de Verde’s wa­ter sup­ply comes from Is­land Pond. A nearby pump­house han­dles chlo­ri­na­tion be­fore wa­ter is de­liv­ered through the pipes to homes through­out the com­mu­nity of al­most 400.

Walsh has dealt with some chal­lenges over the years look­ing af­ter the town’s wa­ter sup­ply, with ag­ing in­fra­struc­ture of­ten at the root of what­ever prob­lems arise. But sub­stan­tial in­vest­ments have been made in re­cent years to up- grade the pump­house.

“The town has had a lot of up­grades,” said Walsh. “All new pip­ing in the pump­house, new pumps, new chlo­rine sys­tem — we’re right in the midst of it now, still at it.”

A new screen was in­stalled last month, and a new shower is on its way for po­ten­tial emer­gen­cies such as com­ing in con­tact with chlo­rine.

“It burns bad,” said Walsh, who him­self has been for­tu­nate not to come in di­rect con­tact with the chem­i­cal el­e­ment. He has a full face mask to wear while he changes the chorine tanks at the pump­house.

With his Wa­ter Op­er­a­tor of the Year Award came a $500 gift cer­tifi­cate of his choos­ing. A lover of mu­sic when not work­ing, he elected to buy some elec­tronic drums.

ANDREW ROBIN­SON/THE COM­PASS

Dale Walsh is the 2016 Wa­ter Op­er­a­tor of the Year in New­found­land and Labrador, hon­oured as a town em­ployee for the mu­nic­i­pal­ity of Bay de Verde.

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