Sniffing out a story isn’t always easy

Covering story on new sewage treatment plant proves to be a traumatic experience

Sometimes as a journalist you hobnob with politicians, rub elbows with high-profile athletes or musicians or chase down that next breaking story.

And then sometimes you get sent to the sewer plant. It is just the assignment I had last month when the city announced the upgrades were nearly complete to the much more amiable sounding Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant. Just as Mike Rowe of the show Dirty Jobs put it, I got assigned to write a story on “what separates polite society and your poo.”

In the comfort of the main building, our mayor joked that perhaps the new treatment plant upgrades came just in time for the election. Funny joke, but alas, that was where the laughs ended. Because along with my assignment to write a story, I also had to come up with a photo — meaning I had to go out to the buildings where once you flush your toilet you don’t want to think about.

I, along with another member of the media, was taken by a couple of the employees to set up a photo around some of the new technology. On the walk over I had something set in my mind for the photo of a person pushing buttons, oh gullible me. We were taken into the headworks building and I instantly was hit with an unpleasant aroma and my face turned into one of disgust. My media friend suggested to the employee “let’s not have this too explicit.”

Explicit? I thought. Between the employee’s smirks and their noses seemingly immune to the aroma, I knew this wasn’t going to be good. I mustered up the strength to go in, making sure my free hand was balled up into a fist in order not to touch anything and my other tightly gripping my camera. It was for good reason too. I’ll save you from the gory details, but the sludge this employee showed us that the new machine filters out wasn’t pleasant.

Already grossed out by this horrifying picture-taking adventure and anxiety kicking in on touching anything, I had visions of the sludge particles jumping towards me. So by the time I noticed the operator flip open the lid to the filtering machine, everything seemed in slow motion.

Now, in my mind things were flying out of the machine towards him and on their way towards me. When I screamed and waved my hands in the air like I was doing the dog-paddle, it seemed like a very valid response. As my hands slowly came to a rolling stop in front of me, and my brain caught up with reality, I realized everyone was looking at me and maybe I had overreacted a little.

I was so flustered by the experience that on my drive to the next assignment this reporter, who was born and raised in Penticton, almost drove up the wrong way on a one-way street. I came back to the office telling my editor I think I have post-traumatic stress disorder and I never will cover another sewer announcement, only to remember that the next day there was one in Okanagan Falls. Thankfully, that one hasn’t been built yet.

I have since recovered from this not so glamorous event and have grown to truly appreciate what our wastewater treatment plant employees do for us. These employees treat, on average, 13 million litres of wastewater a day.

Sometimes we forget what to be thankful for, so next time you flush, think about the people who are taking care of that for you. I, for one, salute them. Because as the saying goes, it’s a dirty job, but somebody has to do it.

 

 

 

Kristi Patton is a reporter with the Penticton Western News.

 

 

Just Posted

The Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce will host the Valley Wide Business Expo May 4 at Predator Ridge Resort. (photo submitted)
Golf raffle helps Okanagan families score homes

Habitat for Humanity Okanagan swinging into action this summer with a new raffle

This photo of the small wildfire burning above Naramata was taken at 8 p.m. on Thursday, June 17, 2021 (Monique Tamminga Western News)
BC Wildfire on scene of small wildfire above Naramata

Black smoke can be seen rising from the mountain

Keremeos’ heritage Grist Mill and Gardens. (Brennan Phillips - Keremeos Review)
Keremeos Grist Mill looking forward to restrictions easing with exclusive concert planned

Juno Award-winning folk artist Valdy is set to take the stage

Rob and Anthony are the city’s new parking ambassadors who are sharing information with businesses and the public about the new pay parking. (Monique Tamminga - Western News)
Penticton hires team to inform people on city’s new pay parking system

The pair will spend at least a month helping businesses and residents navigate new pay parking system

Letter writer says COVID has created lots of newbie cyclists who don't know rules of cycling. (File photo)
LETTER: Newbie cyclists in Penticton need lessons on rules of the road

Penticton cycling group just received city funding, should give back by offering how-to lessons

Bear wanders Kelowna on June 15. (Michelle Wallace/Facebook)
Bear climbs fence, uses crosswalk in Kelowna

The bear was spotted on Baron Road Wednesday evening

Students in the Grade 10 entrepreneurship program at Summerland Unisus School have completed a cookbook with international recipes. (Contributed)
Summerland students create virtual international cookbook

Entrepreneurship program at Summerland Unisus School uses virtual cookbook as fundraiser

Hundreds of people, young and old, joined the three-day Walking Our Spirits Home procession, honouring residential school survivors, those who never made it home and all those affected by the institutions. Here people walk the third portion on June 13. (Martha Wickett - Salmon Arm Observer)
Walking Our Spirits Home from Kamloops provides path to healing

First Nations in and beyond Secwépemc territory join in to honour residential school survivors

More flames
Lake Country home destroyed in large blaze, 11 dogs rescued

Fire crews are responding to 10839 Hallam Drive

(Facebook/Kelowna Cabs)
Kelowna Cabs reaches tentative agreement with dispatchers union

The tentative agreement could help end the dispute between the taxi company and the dispatchers

FILE – A science class at L.A. Matheson Secondary in Surrey, B.C. on March 12, 2021. (Lauren Collins/Surrey Now Leader)
Teachers’ union wants more COVID transmission data as B.C. prepares for back-to-school

BCTF says that details will be important as province works on plan for September

A boat sharing service is extending to Summerland. The company, Penticton Boat Club and Rentals, is also taking over the boat rentals at Summerland Waterfront Resort. (Photo by Chris Stenberg)
Boat sharing service extended from Penticton to Summerland

Company will also operate boat rentals at Summerland Waterfront Resort

201 First Street West 1980s. Prior revitalization. (Photo from Revelstoke Museum and Archives)
Man who redesigned downtown Revelstoke honoured with lifetime achievement award

Robert Inwood has worked on historical projects across the province

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry outlines B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan, May 25, 2021, including larger gatherings and a possible easing of mandatory masks on July 1. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. records 120 new COVID-19 cases, second vaccines accelerating

Lower Pfizer deliveries for early July, Moderna shipments up

Most Read