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Technical school prepares young minds to help save state's water problems

Lead Water Testing
Posted at 11:00 AM, Apr 06, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-06 22:25:57-04

"What’s in the ground naturally, minerals, especially what kind, iron and manganese,” said Rick Timmons rhetorically during a lecture at West-MEC in Buckeye. “People don’t like to drink it so we figure out how to remove it.”

Students inside his lab are getting the hands-on experience they’ll need to take on one of the most important issues of their generation.

“They’re the people in charge of this, they’re the ones who are going to find those solutions for us in the future,” said Timmons.

Timmons is the Environmental Sustainability instructor at West-MEC Career and Technical Education’s Southwest Campus. He says as the focus on where Arizona’s future water will come from intensifies amidst a two-decade-long drought, the college is training the workers who will answer the call for solutions.

“The water treatment industry, especially local, came to us and said we have a need for trained, skilled, workers in the water treatment and wastewater treatment field,” said Timmons.

Timmons has helped build a program preparing high school students with laboratory and technical knowledge for water services careers. The Environmental Sustainability program builds fundamentals that can help springboard them into a number of different fields.

“There’s environmental technicians, environmental scientists, there’s hydrologists, there’s environmental engineers, and it all brings them back to water,” said Timmons just to name a few.

“We need to do something before it comes snowballing towards us,” said Sadye Halmrast.

Halmrast, a high school senior, loves the experimentation and discussion surrounding how new technology can bring positive impacts to issues like water scarcity and conservation. Eager to get her hands dirty every day.

“I’m learning about the subject to make a difference, I’m getting job opportunities to go into the work field and help out,” said Halmrast.

Students like Halmrast have the opportunity to take their water treatment certification at the end of the program. If they pass, the cost of the certification is on the school.

“It gets their foot in the door at just about any water treatment, wastewater treatment industry,” said Timmons.

That’s the whole idea. Replenish the critical workforce of tomorrow now, readying our communities for the complex challenges that lay ahead.