Writing Contest Winners 2016-2017

Second Place, Grades 6-8

Caitlin O’Regan
Grade 7, Atlantic Middle School, Quincy
Holly Rendle, Teacher

Marbles? Check. Now Let's Talk About Success...

"Arlette, it's a frigid day. You best let the faucets drip unless you want the pipes to freeze," my grandfather advises as he strolls down the stairs wrapped in a fleece blanket.

"What good would that do, Papa? Please check for your marbles because I believe you've lost them!" I chuckle.

"Trust me; I know what I'm doing. I used to work for the MWRA, you know."

"The MWRA? What is that, some secret spy agency?"

"Don't be silly, Arlette. The MWRA is not a secret spy agency. It is the organization that provides the water you use when you take a shower, wash your hands, cook, and even drink!" he says, his deep blue eyes twinkling.

"And you worked for them?" I ask, now keen on discovering more about the past my Papa rarely talks about.

"You bet I did, everyday whatever the weather. I went to work when it was pouring rain, drenching me to the bone. I went to work even when sleet pelted down on me with no mercy. I went to work even when the snow was up to my waist with wind whipping my face, and I even went to work when the sun glared down, making me drenched in sweat and light headed. I went to work, providing a crucial service, no matter what, and so did everyone else. And today's MWRA workers, they've kept up the tradition."

As he thought of more to tell me, I went to the kitchen to make coffee for Papa and a hot cocoa with plenty of whipped cream for me, then returned to the living room. I always wish for snow days because that means I get to spend the day with Papa. Once we were settled with warm drinks clasped in our hands, I asked Papa to tell me more about his days working for the MWRA.

He explained that back in his day, Boston Harbor was terribly polluted, and that you could NEVER swim safely because of the wastewater and other pollutants which were released into the harbor. Papa went on to say that he and his colleagues did their best, rain or shine, to keep the watersheds clean, however back then it was an uphill battle. Luckily, he keeps in close touch with an old work buddy whose daughter followed in her dad's footsteps. Her name is Docia, and she is an engineer for the MWRA.

"You know," Papa said with a proud smile, "Docia has seen a lot of accomplishments during her career, and she has been an important part of their success."

"What has she done?"

"Well, for one thing, she's helped fix the problem of SSO's, or Sanitary Sewer Overflows! Thanks to Docia and her MWRA colleagues, our waterways are protected ... even during storms and heavy precipitation. Back in my day, there used to be frequent SSO's, but now things have improved. Would you believe there have been only TWO in our service area in the last twelve months? Now that's what I call an accomplishment!"

"Wow, only two in the last twelve months? That's impressive."

"That's correct. MWRA employees have been working hard to improve the safety of both the people and the environment of New England." After a moment, Papa continued, "Docia also mentioned that the MWRA workers test the water quality often, especially after storms. They check for a bacteria called Enterococcus, and they even publish a yearly report for each local beach so residents can be informed about the health of nearby bodies of water. "

"Papa, I still don't quite get what precipitation has to do with the water quality."

"Why everything! Heavy rainfall and snowmelt can overwhelm the storm drain system, which is what causes the high bacteria count in local waterways. In other words, we now have clean water to use at home and clean beaches for swimming because of Docia and the other MWRA workers."

"I bet Docia's father is very proud of her," I breathe, respect for Docia coursing through my veins.

"There's no doubt about that. The MWRA is an admirable organization which is devoted to helping people and protecting the environment ... whatever the weather."

"And you really used to work for them, Papa?"

"You bet ya, Nipper."

"That's so cool," I replied. After a moment I added, "Do you think it might be possible for me to meet Docia one day? I would love to hear more about her experiences with working for the MWRA."

"Of course! Now, let's get those faucets dripping!"

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