Skip to the content of the web site.

Microbiology Technician

Department: Civil Engineering Effective Date:
Grade: USG 5 Reports to:

General Accountability

Nature and Scope

The project with which the microbiologist will be associated is entitled: “Pathogen Loadings at Drinking Water Intakes on a Heavily Impacted River: Assessing Urban and Agricultural Inputs.” Funding is being provided by the Canadian Water Network, which is based at the University of Waterloo. Partners include the Regional Municipality of Waterloo, the City of Brantford and the Grand River Conservation Authority.

Over the last few years drinking water utilities treating surface water have come to recognize the crucial importance of the watershed in their planning and operations. This has been sparked by the emergence of cryptosporidiosis as a significant public health issue and been given renewed emphasis by the recent bacterial occurrence in Walkerton, Ontario. To ensure public health protection, treatment plants must be designed to handle peak pathogen occurrences. In relatively small watersheds these can be orders of magnitude above baseline levels as a result of significant precipitation events or snowmelt. Agricultural contributions from livestock operations, as well as combined sewer overflows, can be major contributors to peak occurrences.

The Grand River in southern Ontario is used as a drinking water source by up to 500,000 people. It is one of the most heavily impacted watersheds in Canada: there are significant municipal wastewater and agriculture-related inputs not far upstream of major drinking water intakes. It is small enough to exhibit major fluctuations in flow and water quality in response to hydrologic events. In part of the watershed, the Region of Waterloo has recently initiated a watershed protection program. This ‘Rural Water Quality Program’ involves educating farmers and the subsidization (through grants) of various abatement measures. Although the program was initially conceived to deal with nutrient loadings, these measures will also reduce pathogen inputs to the river.

One of the objectives of this research is to determine the contributions of target pathogens from the major sub-watersheds of the Grand River, and the relative contributions of non-point (agricultural) sources and municipal wastewater and major combined sewer overflows, under both peak and normal conditions.

A microbiological survey will be conducted to monitor approximately ten sites, six times per year, in addition to some episodic sampling. The microorganisms which will be analyzed for at UW include: total and fecal coliforms, E. coli, E. coli O157:H7, and Campylobacter. Samples will also be collected for determination of Cryptosporidium, Giardia, Clostridium perfringens and total culturable virus levels. These samples will be shipped to off-campus laboratories.


Reporting Relationship and Other Interactions

The successful candidate will report to the Project Manager on a day-to-day basis and will interact with the Senior Microbiologist and/or graduate students to implement the required microbiological methods and associated QA/QC if they are not already in place. Ultimate responsibility with the position lies with the NSERC Chair holder. The microbiologist is expected to meet from time to time with members of the Canadian Water Network project group (located at UW or with all participants) and contribute to discussions as appropriate. The microbiologist may also be asked or be invited to participate in ‘NSERC Chair in Water Treatment’ functions or events. There will also be interactions with representatives from each of our partners or their designates. These interactions will be necessary to co-ordinate sampling and data acquisition at secured locations. There may also be occasion for interactions with other graduate students and faculty in the Water Resources group of Civil Engineering in the event of sharing of equipment or facilities. A senior NSERC Chair member or the Chairholder will make all decisions involving others.

Statistical Data

Specific Accountabilities

Sample/data collection

Microbiological analyses (carried out in Level 2 containment)

Data handling

Reporting of results

Working Conditions