Sarah Cooke

"Some people are born with a love of accounting…I’ve always had a love of the outdoors…working with nature.” Sarah Cooke says she is fortunate to have been able to parlay her interest in nature into a viable career. For the last two years, the water and wastewater treatment plant operator has been working for the Town of Smiths Falls, Ontario.

From testing the water’s turbidity to checking pressure and chlorine levels or measuring water flow, Sarah is constantly on the move at the plant and doesn’t spend much time at her desk. "Sometimes I can be so busy, I have to ask myself at the end of my shift…‘Okay, did I sit down today?’” She also enjoys interacting with the public, even if it’s just answering their concerns over the phone. "I love when people are concerned enough about the quality of their water to ask questions.”

But sometimes people can become overly concerned or anxious. National tragedies such as Walkerton, where seven Canadians died and hundreds more became sick due to improperly treated water, have made the public much more aware of the importance of being vigilant about water treatment. Sarah notes that one of the toughest parts of her job is "when you have someone yelling at you or calling you names on the other end of the phone line because they’re worried their water might be polluted.” To ease these people’s concerns, she must also be a part psychologist.

With the heightened national concern, Sarah finds her job more empowering than ever. On a tour of the facility with her family, a relative asked at the start, "So you just treat water? That’s all?” By the tour’s end, the relative understood that Sarah’s job is more than "just” treating water. It affects the daily lives of all Smiths Falls residents.