Sask. company wants improvements to ‘outdated’ wastewater operator certification

A Saskatchewan training company is calling for changes to the province’s wastewater operator certification program.

Advanced Municipal Solutions (AMS) provides water operation training to First Nations and municipalities.

“The model we’re using right now is, I would say, outdated,” said Dawn Dierker, the director of training at AMS.

Operators undergo a four-day boot camp-style training and write their certification exam on the fifth day, according to Dierker.

She says the program worked 20 years ago when operators had years of experience. Now, operators have gaps in their education and would benefit from longer training, Dierker says.

AMS wants to work with the First Nations Water Association to put together a new, longer program with online and hands-on training.

“I think we’ll see a really good success rate for operators on First Nations.”

Dierker says with a change in programming, Saskatchewan could see stronger retention of wastewater operators, and in turn, she says water quality could improve.

“On First Nations, there is a definite lack of certified operators. It’s a very difficult job to fill,” Dierker said.

The Safe Drinking Water Foundation says certified operators are underpaid on First Nations because there’s a lack of funding.

“And this means, once they have experience and they have their certifications, they often leave to go to urban centers because they’re paid better,” said Nicole Hancock, the executive director of the charity.

Little Pine First Nation is working on training and securing a water operator, according to Indigenous Services Canada (ISC).

The community, southwest of Rosetown, Sask., has been under a boil water advisory for four years.

“When water operator training is successfully completed, the community could be in a position to lift the long-term drinking water advisory,” according to ISC.

The Water Security Agency manages Saskatchewan’s water supply and overlooks water operator training standards.

“We’re always making sure that we’re using the latest best practices and the programs that we offer are meeting the needs of the province,” communications manager Sean Osmar says.

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