Making sure it’s fit to drink
Bay de Verde water operator wins award
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.
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.