2nd group of workers prepares to sequester inside Brandon’s water treatment plant

By | April 14, 2020

The City of Brandon is preparing a second group of workers to sequester inside the city’s water treatment plant as part of its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

There have been nine city employees bunkered down in the facility since March 26 to ensure the city’s water supply keeps flowing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s gone much better than I expected,” said Patrick Pulak, Brandon’s general manager of operations. “We’ve had a few bumps along the road, which isn’t surprising, considering this is the first time we’ve done this. 

“But overall it’s a testament to the planning done beforehand, and the operators seem to be coping well.”

Some of those bumps, Pulak said, included one cold night when they ran out of propane for the campers the employees are staying in, and working out how to get streaming services, such as Crave and Netflix, on devices in the plant.

But overall, Pulak hasn’t heard complaints about the experience.

It was a big ask, not only for the workers, but also their families, he said.

“You know, probably the toughest part is over this last weekend, over the holidays, not being able to be with their families,” he said.

“So, you know, they’re going into third week of sequestering and, you know, they’re able to talk with their families, but certainly not being able to spend that time, that’s probably been the most difficult thing for them.” 

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Pulak said the city has offered the employees additional compensation and banked vacation time they can use once they are out of sequestration.

The city has provided laptops and other devices to help the workers stay connected with their loved ones when they have downtime.

The city also has helped to their families with tasks such as rides to the grocery store. 

Nine workers have been sequestered in Brandon’s water treatment plant since the end of March. Nine more will go in later this month to relieve them. (Riley Laychuk/CBC)

The workers have access to exercise equipment, weights and an entertainment area with a couch and TV. There are also quiet places where they can be alone, if they wish. 

2nd group in self-isolation

A second group of nine operators and maintenance staff will move into the facility later this month.

Both groups were chosen after the city put out a call asking for staff to step up, Pulak said.

“We never forced anybody to go in into the facility,” he said.

“The second shift is much the same thing, as these people are volunteering to do it.” 

The second group is self-isolating at home before the sequestration in just under two weeks.

The idea of sequestering workers was part of Brandon’s pandemic plan, which was devised in 2005, Pulak said. As soon as COVID-19 showed up in North America, discussions about whether or not to move workers into the facility ramped up. 

The workers are staying in trailers outside the facility. They also have access to entertainment, weights and exercise equipment. (Riley Laychuk/CBC)

The city made the decision out of an abundance of caution. 

“The way we kind of word it is they are heroes as much as the hospital staff,” Pulak said.

“They’re providing those services that are required to keep society moving forward. Without drinking water, you don’t have emergency services, you don’t have a hospital, you don’t have commercial businesses, you don’t have people being able to, you know, use water in their homes.”

The city doesn’t know how long it might need to sequester workers inside the facility.

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