We celebrate National Science Week with Lachie
I’m a glass always full kind of guy. It’s not half-full or half-empty. If a glass is half full of liquid, the other half is full of billions of gas molecules of air and water. Unless you’re in a vacuum – but if you’re in a vacuum you’ve got bigger things to worry about than how full your glass is.
I studied Environmental Science in Tasmania, which is literally 40% conservation zoning by land area. So a good place to study the environment.
I was travelling in Germany when I decided to study science. I was on a train zooming past a wind farm stretching further than the eye could see, and I thought: “Nice. I’m going to study science”.
I had big dreams of building a renewable planet, or turning waste into resources, or filtering all the gold out of the ocean (there is about 10 million kilos dissolved in it), or bioengineering an edible weed that could grow in the desert and feed the world.
One of my lecturers at University said our degree could even see us end up working in sewage quality – and here I am today.
I have actually really enjoyed my career pathway to date. I did some vacation work in the water industry prior to working nights at a Ferro/Silico-Manganese smelter. I could never get the soot out of my nose though, so I went to work in Trade Waste.
Trade waste is that magical beast of the water industry. Customer facing and technically-minded, we manage risk and help our customers while protecting our people, assets and the environment. At City West Water we manage the biggest industrial waste catchment in Victoria, meaning we see a variety of challenges and opportunities. We monitor and work with customers to minimise their impacts and save them money, assisting to make industry more economically and environmentally sustainable. We liaise with other water authorities and regulators to manage emerging risks, and monitor the trends we see across the country.
I currently manage a small team of Trade Waste Consultants (TWC), who each work with about 500 industrial businesses. A day in the life of a TWC might include: receiving an application for a new car wash that needs to discharge their wash water; finalising a Trade Waste Agreement (contract) for a brewery; discussing discharge concentration limits and sampling or lab testing requirements with a chemical manufacturer; visiting a mechanic’s workshop that’s been operating for 30 years; checking sample results for compliance against specific limits; checking that your favourite Indian restaurant has installed and maintained their grease interceptor; and much, much more. We apply scientific principles to our work every day.
To anyone considering a career in science: Do it! Absolutely. The most rewarding thing I have ever done in my life was to learn about the fundamental reality of the world, and how I can apply that to improve the messy, ever-shifting puzzle of life around us.