By Colleen Cross
A unique course at Fleming College helps prepare students of all walks for well-tech licensing
By Colleen Cross
Lindsay, Ont. – In April, Fleming College’s Frost Campus in Lindsay, Ont., opened its doors to Ground Water Canada and I spent an eye-opening couple of days with students in a unique course at Fleming College, called Well Constructed, that helps prepare well technicians for the Well Technician Licence exam.
After finishing the two-week hands-on course, applicants could try for any Class 1 through 4 licences through the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change. The course is designed to help them through the tests; they would then be required to log the required number of hours on their own time.
Retired professor Gord Bailey, one of several instructors on the course, explained that students could get those hours by registering as an assistant. “You don’t need to be licensed for that and it’s a good way to get in your hours,” Bailey said. Assistant well technicians do need to be supervised by having a licensed technician no more than an hour’s drive away.
Bailey said he was pleased to be able to serve as an instructor on this course, noting that this year was the first he could participate, something he couldn’t do while teaching full time before retiring in 2016.
A diverse group of about 30 pump installers, plumbing and heating professionals, geotechnical drillers and water treatment operators attended the course from as far afield as Newfoundland, Quebec and Timmins. They were given instruction in hydrogeology, drilling systems, well siting, constructing casing, covering a well, annular space, sealing, grouting, equipment installation, well records, pumps, pump testing, abandonment, exemptions, well disinfection, flowing wells and safety.
Bailey said that when he saw there were several pump installers enrolled he added pumps into the simulations to help students build on their strengths.
The days I attended, hydrogeology was on the agenda. MTE Consultants’ Pete Gray opened the sessions by sharing stories of his work around the world in India, Indonesia and Thailand with all walks of professionals.
“You’re stronger for the relationships you build,” Gray told students. “Geology is a dynamic field and you never know where your work will take you.”
Gray emphasized that as a professional hydrogeologist his first responsibility is to protect the public and the environment.
The first day was all about geology; the second connected the dots between rock and water. He said those who work on water wells need to know the variability of the geography they are dealing with, got students familiar with using maps and recognizing different types of terrain, and with the concept of regional versus local flow.
He said he relied on well drillers and technicians in his work.
He talked about the importance of yield testing. “You have to test so that you can stand behind your numbers. You have to make a decision.”
Early on, they broke out into smaller groups to work on a variety of simulations in various settings – for example, on a dairy farm or at a private home – and types of hydrogeology. After working through various issues, each group presented its observations and solutions on the assigned simulation to the class. The presentation formed part of their final exam. Half of the marks were given for the college’s exam and the other half were given for the MOECC’s portion of the exam. One hundred per cent attendance was mandatory and the students received a certificate to recognize their achievement.
Later in the course, students worked with the college’s own Best Management Practices 1 and 2, which put regulations in plain language. Bailey said the idea behind the BMPs is to help eliminate inconsistencies in interpretation of the regulations and make sure everyone is “singing from the same songbook.”
Natalie Spina of the MOECC came out to talk about regulation and oversee the exam.
Jeff Dunn, who works for International Water Supply in Barrie, Ont., was in class to prepare for certification as a well technician. Dunn said a couple of people at the company, his dad included, may retire in the near future and the company, which handles municipal, industrial and environmental water systems, thought it important to bring along the next generation of operators.
Dunn, who has his water operator’s licence from the Walkerton Clean Water Centre, said he wants to be able to go in and deal with pump problems, pull a pump, remediate a well and solve problems as they come up.
When the course was over, he updated me on how they fared over the rest of the course.
During a slightly rainy and definitely muddy outdoor grouting lab, students were given two demonstrations of how to grout casing for wells. “I guess when you work with water you are bound to get wet sometimes!” he said.
A demonstration of the down-the-hole camera seemed to catch the interest of students. “We had a down-the-hole camera show with one of the wells outside of the classrooms. I spent most of the time outside raising and lowering the camera, but I have done that many times at work anyways. A fair few people seemed rather interested in it, I even talked to one the next week and he had gone and ordered a camera for his business after seeing it done.”
Dunn also enjoyed a day during the second week that was split between instructors Greg Bullock and Darren Juneau teaching the Best Management Practices.
“All in all it turned out to be a good learning experience,” he said.
The course is set to run twice in February and April 2018.