Imagine you are standing over a large grease trap at a meat processing plant. You are an industrial waste inspector and this morning, you are conducting an unannounced inspection of the plant to ensure it is operating in compliance with the applicable laws and regulations regarding industrial waste disposal. Your job is to check facilities like this one to make certain protocols are in place and procedures are being followed so that all waste is disposed of properly, with minimal impact on the environment and public health.
As an industrial waste inspector, you often make surprise visits to check out a plant's waste situation and look for signs of non-compliance. In the case of the meat processing plant, you know the grease trap is a good place to start. It is designed to catch all the oils and fats produced at the plant. Because the grease is an animal by-product, strict regulations govern how it is to be handled and disposed of, and you will be checking that those are being followed.
For starters, the law requires that the trap be regularly cleaned, so if there is more than a certain amount of grease in the trap, it is not being cleaned often enough. You will also inspect the wastewater system that collects, treats, and disposes of other liquid wastes in the plant, including checking that drains are running, baffles are functioning, and equipment is being maintained. As an industrial waste inspector, you must ensure the plant is following disposal laws to keep harmful waste from being released into the environment.
Duties vary significantly from job to job, but the following list includes typical job duties one might encounter as an industrial waste inspector:
Industrial waste inspectors work in a variety of locations, including:
In the field:
In the office:
If you are a high school student considering a career as an industrial waste inspector, you should have strong marks or an interest in:
In most cases, the minimum education requirement to work as an industrial waste inspector is a university undergraduate degree. If you are a post-secondary student considering a career as an industrial waste inspector, the following programs are most applicable:
It is not necessary to be certified in order to work as an industrial waste inspector.
If you enjoy being outdoors and physical activity this type of work will be interesting for you. It’s not repetitive, you don’t have to sit behind a desk all the time and often you are solving problems or investigating situations. At first, the chemistry attracted me and later on the fieldwork and interactions with my colleagues became very important aspects of my career. After taking my diploma in Chemical Technology, I started out doing fieldwork. I initially worked in resource industry labs and then moved into water quality analysis. After eighteen years as a Lab Technologist and Lab Supervisor, I wanted to do more than work with instruments.
I advanced into working as a field technologist and now have twelve additional years of experience in this role. Throughout the years I have enhanced my competence by taking a number of courses such as sampling techniques, effective evidence gathering, effective interviewing and bylaw training. These are just a few examples of the many courses I have taken. I found courses in the areas of interpersonal skills to be especially helpful, since communication is an essential component of my work. Some of the technologist roles require very specialized theoretical knowledge, so it is important to focus on which part of the field of chemistry you want to work in.
There is a need for my type of services in every major town or city, most utility services and some manufacturers but most positions will be found in government agencies all across Canada. I have no mandatory requirements to belong to any association, but have always attended seminars and conferences. I keep in touch with people I have met at seminars, courses and in the field. Reading, networking and mentoring are very important ways to learn. I can see what others are doing and emulate what works. I do my best to share my experiences as well, so others can benefit. I also read and am involved in a number of non-government environmental organizations and learn a lot from these groups while making a contribution to the community. In the future, the fields of water quantity and water conservation will become increasingly important.
All major centers will need to make better use of the water they have. The next big catchword in the business of environment will be EDS (Endocrine Disrupter Substances). These substances will need to be analyzed chemically, their environmental pathways will have to be studied and we will need to learn how to prevent them from being distributed into the environment. I recommend that people who are interested in this type of work start with lab experience and an educational background in environmental management. Experience with a full analytical lab is extremely important. Understanding best practices, practical chemistry and fieldwork are also important prerequisites. It is very important to understand surface water chemistry, industrial processes and waste chemistry.
Without this background, a technician is unable to decide what analysis to recommend. Sampling and analysis are becoming increasingly computerized. A good understanding of computer systems and well-developed computer skills are essential. Interpersonal skills are also very important-a fact ignored by most post-secondary institutions so far. I work Monday through Friday from 8 AM to 4 PM. We will soon be working slightly longer hours each day and getting every second Friday off. However, you likely would not be able to get these regular hours in a non-government lab setting. Typically, an individual might do 50-60% of their work in the field and the rest in the office.
This will vary depending on the specific position. During my work, I carry out surface water testing year-round. In winter we use augers to drill through the ice. This type of work exposes you to pollutants and chemicals, so safety procedures and equipment are essential. We work near rivers, streams and ponds and require special safety equipment and winter wear. In the lab, we conduct analyses and report findings. As another part of my work, I meet with groups to discuss environmental problems.
It is especially interesting to solve problems by tracing toxic materials to find how and where they have entered the water system. I mentor junior technologists and educate the public by talking with industries and environmental groups. In the last 10-15 years, the incidence of pollutants getting into the water systems has been greatly reduced. By increasing public awareness, changing attitudes and behaviours, we are gradually improving the situation but there is still a lot more work to be done.
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