2019-02-09 / News

Two Operators Join Wastewater Plant Staff

By Stephanie Fortino

Bailey Manninen and Jack Slack have joined the staff of the Department of Public Works (DPW) and will be operating the wastewater treatment plant this winter. With backgrounds in chemistry and an interest in protecting and conserving fresh water, the two are working with plant manager Jay Davis, learning what it takes to make clean water.

Both moved to Mackinac Island for summer work and decided to stay here all year when they learned the DPW was hiring operators. The sewer plant has been short staffed this year, since one of its operators moved off the Island in July. After months of searching for replacements, which was stymied by a lack of adequate housing and other challenges, Miss Manninen and Mr. Slack started working for the department in early November and late October, respectively.

Miss Manninen moved from Escanaba last spring to work at the Carriage House restaurant at the Hotel Iroquois. Moving here for summer work was actually the first time she had visited the Island, she told the Town Crier, noting she has greatly enjoyed her time here.

She took undergraduate classes at Bay de Noc Community College and at the University of Wisconsin- Green Bay before taking this year off. She planned to use her summer job as a time to evaluate what path she wanted to pursue after graduation.

Working on Mackinac Island provided an exciting opportunity, she said, which has blossomed into a new career path.

Mackinac Island is also a natural fit for her interest in horseback riding, she said, as she was named the U.P. Rodeo Queen in 2016.

She also is happy to become a part of the community and meet new people.

The DPW position was ideal, she said, noting she has always been interested in wastewater treatment, as the process of returning sewage to clean freshwater is vital.

Her love for science and love for the environment draws her to wastewater management, she said.

“We think of ourselves as the protectors of the Great Lakes.”

Once the new staff have worked at the wastewater plant for a year, they can take an exam to become a licensed operator. The skill is essentially like going to a trades school, she said, as it gives her flexibility in the types of jobs she can pursue in the future. At the Mackinac Island Wastewater Treatment Plant, she is looking forward to helping the department advance as it receives new equipment, enacts new procedures, and begins new tests.

As she begins her first winter on the Island, Miss Manninen is enjoying the quieter and slower season here. And even though tasks can be more challenging, she actually enjoys the difficult aspects of winter life on Mackinac Island.

“It makes you appreciate things so much more,” she said.

Jack Slack is from Grand Haven, although his family moved to Holland and Muskegon. He attended Hope College and was graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering and a Bachelor of Arts in chemistry.

While he didn’t intend to become a wastewater treatment plant operator on Mackinac Island, he admits “this is a valid career path for me.”

Having gone to school with Mackinac Island summer resident Scott Brandonisio, Mr. Slack learned that his friend’s parents needed help at the end of the season, when the college students who worked here during the summer returned to classes. Mr. Slack moved to the Island in late August to work at the Old Time Photos. At the end of the season, when he learned the DPW was hiring, he applied.

The job offers Mr. Slack an opportunity to gain experience in wastewater management. He is drawn to working with the DPW because of his longtime interest in water conservation and reclamation.

“Wastewater treatment is probably one of the most valuable endeavors,” he said, noting cleaning the world’s finite amount of freshwater is becoming more crucial.

During his undergraduate education, Mr. Slack studied desalination techniques extensively as he tried to develop a way to remove the minerals from salt water, which would help fill the global demand for freshwater.

He is also a classical percussionist, and served as the principal percussionist for every classical music ensemble at Hope College during his last two years. He is looking forward to participating in musical groups on the Island, including the weekly winter Music Mondays program and the spring musical.

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