NWO First Nations launch program to train water plant operators

A tribal council representing eight First Nations communities in northwestern Ontario is partnering with a Canadian charity to train future water plant operators for its member First Nations.

The Bimose Tribal Council is working with Water First Education & Training Inc. to offer a drinking water treatment and environmental water management internship program for young Indigenous adults. 

Currently, 14 young adults are taking part in the program, said Phil Tangie, the hub manager for Bimose Tribal Council. 

“They’re just learning the basics: OITs, operators in training. They’re also learning water quality analysis, source water protection, anything and everything to do with water, with the hopes that some of these interns will eventually become at the very least a water plant operator in their community.”

Interns are also learning basic mathematics as it applies to water and wastewater, chemistry, reporting regulations, and even networking skills, Tangie said. 

When they’re done, they’ll receive Operator in Training (OIT) and Water Quality Analyst (WQA) certifications.

The first six months of the 18-month program is funded by Indigenous Services Canada, and Tangie says he’s hopeful that the results from those first six months will persuade ISC to continue funding the program for its duration. 

“I’m hoping that we’re able to develop First Nation capacity with regards to developing … new water plant operators,” Tangie said, “or in general youth that are interested in working with water in their communities regardless of the capacity – ranging from water plant operator to maybe a marine biologist, a hydrologist, whatever piques their interest in the field.”

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