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> My Job, Science in the community
Posted: May 1 2009, 11:57 PM

I'm with stupid.

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I opted for the "Other" option.

My Job (or Science in the community).

In case youíre wondering what my job has to do with science, well, itís science that pays my salary, my understanding of science (specifically chemistry) that means that my salary is what it is. I work in applied chemistry. Itís ironic really (at least it seems that way in some vague form to me anyway) that Iím an applied chemist, in a law enforcement role, within a political organization.

In the country I live in, we have a piece of legislation called the Resource Management Act, that act of parliament essentially lays out what people can and canít do to the environment (under the act, discharging water into a water way can be an offense). So far Iíve been in two prosecutions, and been involved in generating and examining evidence in a third. The first two were pretty mundane, dairy farmers discharging dairy effluent or milk into creeks and waterways. Thatís straight forward, I show up, take some photos, take some samples, if possible take water quality samples upstream and downstream of where the discharge is getting into the water, and a sample of the discharge itself, get the results analyzed for the right things, and then interpret the results. I put emphasis on analyzing the samples for the right things, because if you donít understand what youíre dealing with itís possible to analyze for the wrong things, and the results will say that there was no contamination occurring (for example, if somebody spills milk into a water way, that milk probably isnít going to have boron in it, so thereís probably not a lot of point in testing for it).

The third case, the one that I generated evidence for, is for a municipal waste water treatment plant Ė a poo pond, if you will. Essentially, what happened here was there was an emergency pipe that had been forgotten about, that resulted in a discharge of partially treated human effluent into a waterway. As it happened, the operators of the pond did have a permit for a discharge at a site downstream from the emergency discharge pipe, and as part of the conditions on the permit, they are required to monitor water quality upstream and downstream of the point of discharge, however as it turned out the upstream sampling point was between the permitted discharge and the non-permitted discharge. So, I was asked, on the strength of previous statistical analyses I had done, to examine the data and try and determine when the discharge had started, I did, and I was able to.

In the unit that I work in, thereís an ex-police officer, a guy whoís been doing the job for a number of years, and everybody else has at least a Bachelors degree, and I know two of my coworkers have Masters degrees, and we all work in local government, carrying out law enforcement, to protect the environment from people who think that itís okay to pump untreated cow effluent, or human effluent into streams and the ocean, or fill the air with smoke and sulfurous fumes. Needless to say, people arenít always happy to see us, Iíve received my fair share of abuse over the phone, or to my face, and some of my coworkers have found themselves in potentially dangerous situations, and I can think of at least one that weíre going to have to deal with in the near future that is going to have to involve the police because of the mental state of the individual involved. I myself recently attended an MVA (not something I had considered when I applied for the job) that was a car versus truck, head on collision. I had to attend the scene because the trucks 300-500l diesel tanks had been ruptured, and it was in an area where the roadside storm water drained straight into the harbor. Fortunately there were no fatalities, or serious injuries, but it was sobering to realize I would have still gone regardless, and equally sobering to be mopping up diesel on the side of a major arterial route.

The point Iím wanting to drive home with this essay though is this: The next time youíre at the beach enjoying the sunlight, the fresh clean air, and the fresh clean surf, or the fresh safe shellfish, or the next time youíre fishing, enjoying the pristine stream, and the clean air remember this. Somewhere, there is a scientist who has protected that for you and been abused for it.

As for my list (in no particular order):

Mick Derry
*** Merry (but not whoeverís sock puppet he is).

cave et aude
Observe. Predict. Confirm.
Schroedingers Voter: I'm both Left Wing and Right Wing until you ask me a specific question.
"Incompetence is bad enough, but to persist is unforgivable." -Prof. Anon.
High Priest of the Revised Church of Bacchus.
Founder of the Cult if Re-frig-ATOR.
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Posted: May 4 2009, 01:25 AM

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[Moderator: Congratulations to all winners of the May Day essay contest and pizza party.]

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Posted: May 30 2009, 05:15 AM


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I applied for a job similar to this, I think it was pollution control officer. I sympathise entirely with having to deal with nefarious polluters, and it can be dangerous, as a lot of money is involved. Always go in force if there is any personal risk is all I can advise, and get an idea of the total process in case companies are using an approved discharge method to hide something else.
Keep up the good work!

"No eternal reward will forgive us now, for wasting the dawn."

"No one here gets out alive!"
  Posted: Jan 15 2012, 11:08 AM

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Good write up. Thanks for sharing.

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