Letter to The Editor: Where Have all the Water Treatment People Gone?

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Letter to the Editor – originally printed in “waterline-The Journal of the Water Management Society”[1]

Dear Editor,

Where have all the Water Treatment people gone?

I started in water treatment in June 1977 after being recruited straight from University to what was then Houseman Hegro Ltd, in Birkenhead. I was allocated to the Senior Engineer in the region and he was responsible for my introduction and training.

There was an immediate introduction to the business and the service requirements for customers by in field training and familiarisation with a number of trained colleagues, along with the start of technical and application training. I feel that I benefitted hugely from this and it was the basis of my knowledge for the rest of my career.

Within a year I was involved in technical training in a classroom environment run in house by senior management and technical division personnel, each in their area of expertise. It is unnecessary to go into the detail but I would think that by the end of the first 12 months in the business I was reasonably aware of the needs of my job. I believe that this was a fairly standard approach in the training of new recruits and I believe that the competition worked in a very similar way

I stayed with Houseman for 22 years in numerous sales and technical roles and then moved on into other areas of water treatment, but in that 22 years the training courses were updated in line with the business and most significantly with the need to look at Legionella!

In addition, whenever there was a new product or an update both sales and service personnel were taken off the road and retrained accordingly.

During this period of time the business and the needs for our clients have become more specific as a result of the Legionella issue, and the obvious commercial rewards that working on the control of that bacteria brings for companies in the UK. However, I believe that this situation created a “two-edged sword” as it has taken away the emphasis on the basic needs of water treatment in the quest to earn money quickly by providing a less technical approach to the business and looking at the HSE guidance notes and ACOP as a route to provide cleaning and monitoring services. This commercial opportunity has created an opportunity for many smaller and new companies to emerge and I believe that in many cases water treatment basic training was not completed because of solely concentrating on the commercial opportunity.

In a financial sense and as a business growth strategy it is difficult to criticise this, but the lack of training in water treatment has resulted in numerous basic problems where relatively simple situations in system management have escalated into critical failures of equipment and processes where in the past they would have been the key part of the water management programme within the facility.

It is potentially a great opportunity for the WMSoc to move on with its already successful training offering and make a step forward above and beyond the courses and CPD points that are provided for attendance. I believe that we should learn from our colleagues in the USA where they now provide a qualification, the CWT Certified Water Technologist. To gain this qualification the candidate attends, either physically or on line a number of training sessions and must pass an examination on all of the areas to gain the qualification and become a CWT. We are more than half way there with the training offered, it would not need to be significantly changed, though updating the courses (as we have been doing for some years now) is a constant requirement to stay in tune with the needs of the industry.

I believe that it is time for the UK to provide a qualification that is seen throughout the UK water treatment and water hygiene industry that is specific to maintaining excellent water conditions in systems and to minimise the risks of pathogens in those systems from proliferating causing illness and worse in some cases! It could not guarantee that someone with the qualification knows everything, but it would help give some confidence to the industries customers out there that there is some standard to which they can refer and hopefully maintain well managed and safe water systems in their facility.



Mike Hunter
APTech Group
Technical Director, UK



[1] Hunter, Mike. “Letter to the Editor: Where Have All The Water Treatment People Gone.” Waterline, The Journal of the Water Management Society, Summer, 2017, p.5.