Friday, June 3, 2011

Clean Water for 400,000: Interview with Jim Bode, Water Quality Supervisor

Jim Bode at the St.Paul Water Intake Building

Jim Bode, Water Quality Supervisor, St. Paul Regional Water Services

As part of the upstream journey in the Downstream/Upstream project, Jim Bode, Water Quality Supervisor at St.Paul Regional Water Services (SPRWS) took Children's Discovery Academy Pre-K and Kindergarten classes on a tour of the St.Paul Water Intake, Sucker Lake, and McCarrons Water Treatment plant. The kids had many questions for him and I followed up with more background on the nature of his work.

JKB: Could you describe your job in a general way?
JB: I supervise the treatment of our water to ensure it meets quality standards. I also supervise our laboratory and some of our operations staff.

JKB: What drew you to this kind of work?

JB: I have a degree in Environmental Science, so it was an opportunity to use my education. When I first started with SPRWS I worked outside a lot on some projects at Vadnais Lake, which I enjoyed a lot. I have continued to find most work here interesting.

JKB: What do you like about water?
JB: I specifically like clean water, which can be hard to find, depending on where you live. I like the fact we can take lake water and make it drinkable for 400,000+ people.

JKB: Does this have anything to do with your interest in fishing? What are you going to fish for next week? JB: I am going to go walleye and lake trout fishing in Canada. Canada has terrifically clean water, and they are good stewards of the water and forests there, which I appreciate.

JKB: Any interesting factoids or theories you could share? Eg. How many gallons do you treat per day..
JB: We treat and deliver about 45 million gallons of water per day to about 415,000 people. We have more than 1,100 miles of pipe beneath the streets that deliver the water to peoples homes.

JKB:What is your favorite part of your job?

JB: I enjoy the people I work with - we have a great crew of people here at the plant. I have also enjoyed the last 5 years of producing nearly odor free and good tasting water. That has not always been the case here. When I started 25 years ago the water did not always smell or taste good.

JKB:What is the hardest part of your job?
JB: I think right now the hardest part is balancing our finances. We have been struggling with revenue, and we have not been able to buy all of the equipment we would like.

JKB: What do you think about teaching kids about the water system?
JB: I think it's important for everyone to understand that people impact the quality of water by how they live. So starting young is good. The water we see today is not the same as it was pre-settlement, and most of the changes have been to the negative side. But recently there has been progress in some areas, such as the Mississippi river.

JKB: What is the role of community relations and outreach of an organization like yours?
JB: Historically we have done very little outreach locally. Water and waste water treatment has been such a fundamental part of our civilization that we don't often publicize our accomplishments or our goals. But we are seeing more outreach on a national level from our trade organization in areas such as water conservation and protection from practices that can harm water supplies.

JKB: Thank you Jim and St. Paul Regional Water Services for the tours ... and the clean water!
Link to description of the the water treatment process

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