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NPDC lab technician living the dream keeping district’s water clean

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New Plymouth District Council’s (NPDC) laboratory technician Grelyn Urquiola is a self-confessed science buff so conducting, ‘science experiments,’ at the district’s wastewater treatment plant is right up her alley.

Grelyn is one of five lab technicians responsible for testing wastewater and water samples at the plant in Waiwhakaiho and other sites throughout the district.

“I've always loved to do science experiments; you might call it. And being part of safeguarding our water network and the environment, is a great feeling.”

As well as compliance testing the team monitors around 115 trade waste clients to ensure they are not disposing harmful waste, such as heavy metals and oil and grease, into the wastewater network.

Any harmful waste could impact on production of the Bioboost®, an organic, slow-release, granular fertiliser suitable for general residential or commercial garden use.

It is produced from heat-dried biomass at New Plymouth’s wastewater treatment plant.

A day in the life of an NPDC lab technician is a busy one involving planning, taking samples, calibrating equipment, testing, collecting, and analysing data, checking results, and certifying reports that are loaded to various online systems and databases.

The laboratory is an International Accreditation New Zealand (IANZ) accredited laboratory which ensures the integrity and reliability of the laboratory results.

The team also analyse samples required to comply with a range of regulations from other sites including samples from potable water sites in New Plymouth, Ōkato, Ōākura and Inglewood.

Grelyn believes the lab technicians’ role plays a big part in educating people to think before they flush or pouring something down the drain.

“It’s quite unique here at the lab and seeing the process. People don’t know what happens next after they flush and that’s why we try to educate our community.”

Joining NPDC two years ago, the job is quite a shift from what Grelyn initially studied in her native Philippines – physical therapy, but the 29-year-old says she’s found her passion with this role. 

And when she’s not working, she likes to explore the great Taranaki outdoors, hiking to the Pouakai Tarns and swimming at Fitzroy Beach or sunbathing at Back Beach.

“We get to help protect these places through our work, so I get to enjoy the fruits of our labour.  It’s a win, win.”


Fast Facts:

  • Each year NPDC treats around eight million cubic metres of wastewater at the New Plymouth Wastewater Treatment Plant. This equates to treating approx. 22 million litres of wastewater per day.
  • The plant provides drinking water for 26,000 homes and businesses from Urenui to Omata – around 90 per cent of the water for the whole district.
  • NPDC is investing $248m over 10 years to improve the district’s water network.