MWRA 2009-2010 Writing Contest Winners

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Larissa Pienkowski
Grade 11, Wilmington High School, Wilmington


Making a Difference

"What do you want to be when you grow up?" The answers given generally range from "firefighters" to "teachers," and with time these answers mature with the child, developing into "lawyers," and "psychologists." All of these career choices have one thing in common: they all give the person the ability to affect lives. On the other hand, if one was to ask the same child, "Have you ever thought about working in the water or wastewater field?" one would most likely be met with blank stares, and upon explaining the details of this career field, a staunch refusal to hear more. However, a career in the water and wastewater industries in fact impacts thousands of lives in multiple ways, and while the initial connotation of these careers is unfavorable, the reality actually often encompasses several areas of common interest among teenagers.

There is a job for nearly every type of person in the water and wastewater industries. The person who nearly devours books on a regular basis can work as a research librarian. The person bent on working with children can become a youth educator, while the math whizzes can become financial planners. Those who spent their coming-of-age years bent over parts of an engine can work as vehicle maintenance technicians. Those fond of high school science are not limited to the career fields of medicine and physics, but can instead pursue their interests by working as a biologist or chemist for industries like the MWRA.

A question that could potentially arise from this is, "Why bother having any of these careers in the water or wastewater industries, when I could have the same career independently?" The water industries make a difference in people's lives every day, however. While not saving lives heroically like a firefighter would, or affecting a childhood the way a teacher does, those who work in the water and wastewater industries devote their time and effort into keeping people alive and healthy in a much more discreet way.

Most people view the water and wastewater industries from a one-dimensional vantage point. They see the man driving the septic truck and accept his job as part of their everyday life, without thinking twice about where their waste goes, who organizes the company, and how exactly their own personal comfort is eased. In truth, there is the relatively unfavorable job of being the person trucking sewage back and forth, but there are hundreds of career opportunities working together to make the trucking back and forth possible. When the septic truck leaves a house, there is an entire other world being answered to, one whose primary goal is to ensure the sanitation and health of thousands of people around the world.

Lives would be at stake without the water and wastewater industries. Not only does sewage keep our homes and streets sanitary, water plants like the seawater desalination plant in India filter seawater for healthier tap water. The Peacehaven Wastewater Treatment Works in the United Kingdom not only treats wastewater, but is working on environmental improvement as well. More advanced and intricately built tunnels like the New York City Tunnel No.3 imply a safer future for people. Without these constant developments in the water and wastewater industries, life spans would be considerably shortened.

The idea of working in the water and wastewater industries is not necessarily such a repulsive idea as one might originally think. On the contrary, there is a multitude of 'clean' jobs available in the industry, and many often provide people with a medium for their talents, knowledge, and passion. In addition to this, without the water and wastewater industries, comfortable lifestyles, not to mention populations, would most likely be at an all time low. Both health and the environment depend partially on these industries. While not as blatantly heroic a lifesaver as a job in law enforcement might be, or as wildly independent a career as the whims of a mad scientist, a job in the water and wastewater industries will no doubt prove to be a fulfilling one, especially for those enticed by the prospect of discreetly making a powerful difference over lives.

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