The story of Kate, the sanitary inspector

Kate woke up confident on this fateful day. The sun was shining and her dog, Cookie was barking in a strange manner. Kate looked petrified into the courtyard. There was a man sitting in front of the house door. He wore a black hat and a blue suit. In his hands he had a dark green suitcase.


She opened the door and waited the first movement of the man. He raised his hat and said in a nice tone:

-Hello Kate. I am Mr. Hudson. Usually we do not come to the doors of our future students, but this time it is a special situation. I think that you do not know what this is all about.


Please try to remember what you were told when you applied to our University. You were told that if the situation arises, we will arrive at your door with the letter of admission and you should sign for receiving it. After that you will have a day to prepare for the admission interview.


The interview counts 50 per cent to the final grade. Do you remember in what sector you have applied?


-Yes, Mr Hudson. I have applied in the Water sector, in the speciality of sanitary inspector. Now please hand me that letter. I want to check it.

-Here you are. Please sign on the back of this paper and feel free to open the letter.

-Of course. May I open the letter now?

-Yes, you may. But be careful. Inside of that envelope there is a code that will allow you to enter for the interview.

Kate opened the letter and started to read it. It was stated that she had been given provisional admission and should appear for interview on February the 9th, 2020. She felt uncomfortable with the date. Something was bothering her. 9th of February was also her birthday.


Would she renounce at her birthday for her dream? She wanted to have a party. She had already invited her friends, her family and her neighbours. A venue had already been chosen.

In the park there was a little house that the owners were landing for big parties. She would turn 18 in a few months. This was a definitive age of great importance.


And what about the fulfilment of her dream? What was her dream? She had colleagues that wanted to become teachers, some wanted to become policemen, others wanted to become assistants. She wanted to become a sanitary inspector. She knew she had to have good marks, so beginning with the 10th year she started to study harder than she had ever done. But what could she do with the interview and with the party? They both were scheduled for the 9th of February and for her, the coincidence was awkward. She felt the need to call her best friend Denise to tell her all that happened that day and to ask her opinion.


Denise answered the phone in a cold manner. What’s wrong? Kate asked herself. Then she realized that Denise was not part of her team and that was bothering her for sure. What team? We are talking about Kate’s team! Since she was little, Kate had dreamt to become a sanitary inspector. So, when she grew older and she was about 15 years old, she encountered a sanitary inspector who needed someone to help him with his papers at first. Then he needed Kate to answer the phone for him, and then she and two other friends of hers had become a team who started to deal with all the cases the sanitary inspector had. Sometimes the sanitary inspector just called Kate, and she and her two friends, Marjorie and Jane dealt with the cases. And Denise was not part of that team!


-Hello, Denise. Do you remember the job that I so much wanted to know all about since I was little? I have received the letter of admission at the University and they say that I qualify for the interview, but, you know, the interview falls on the 9th of February, the date of my birthday party. What should I do? What would you do if you were me?

At the other line the silence was a bit longer than one would expect, but finally Denise answered:

-Hello, Kate. Yes, I remember some of what you have told me. I don’t know what to say. I know that your parents have already paid for the party and that the next date when the place is available is on the 9th of March. You have to think carefully what is more important. You have invited all your friends, even your boyfriend Jake is expected to come. You have to skip the interview. You could become a good teacher, or a writer, or something else.


Kate felt that Denise was jealous and that was the reason why she gave her this advice. But she kept this for herself. She just said:

-Denise! That isn’t possible! I will lose the place at the University. They won’t keep a seat with my name on it! I have to skip my birthday party! So long eighteen years party!

Denise agreed with her:


-You wanted to become a sanitary inspector since you were in kindergarten. You always wanted to oversee public hygiene and health! That is why you have a team now and that is also why you have tried to get good marks and you have succeeded. So, go for the interview for becoming a sanitary inspector!


-It was my dream to become an important person, a person that others should respect and appreciate. I know that sanitary health inspectors play a crucial role in the protection of public health and environment in various ways and I want that role to be mine! I’ve learnt that in a state civic bodies, if I am aloud to call them that, depend on health and sanitary inspectors for dealing with various public issues which range from the safety of drinking water and the safety of food to the general sanitary conditions.


-Do you remember the case of that girl that drank contamined water from a friend’s house and got ill? She had to see the doctor and she had to take some pills that tasted so bad that even your dog would not have taken them. The girl’s friend could not be blamed. The next day the girl’s family asked a sanitary inspector to come and to see what was wrong with that water. The inspector came and he analysed the drinking water from the entire neighbourhood and he discovered that somewhere in the pipes some rats had died and that was the reason why the water was contamined.

-My dear Denise…I have decided. My birthday party won’t take place. End of story! I really want to be the good guy, the sanitary inspector that saves lives. It is very important for me. This semester I have started to take Chemistry and all the subjects related to Sciences more seriously. I am sorry for my boyfriend, too. I know he is coming from another town, but he has to understand.

Kate hung up and went to her room. She took her clothes and put the phone on the bed. The girl looked into her wardrobe. She was looking for something that would fit the situation. For several years she was the sanitary inspector she had dreamt to be. Usually she took Cookie with her and went to help people who called her.

Even if she was only 18 years old, she solved cases with the team, real cases coming from real people. They called her and presented her the case, then she and her team went to the place where the people were and analysed the case. Kate started to remember…


The first case was that of the Bright family. They lived in a flat near a big park and they accused the municipality that they contaminated the water because it was red. We all know that the clear water has no odour, no colour and no taste.


Kate and the team arrived in their house at noon and they tasted the water. Cookie was wagging his tail and he was barking in a peculiar way. Kate felt like a detective. She was even dressed like one. She was dressed with a black robe and she had her mother’s black hat. She felt great.


The Bright family asked about the sanitary inspector. Kate answered that he would also come in about two days. They seemed satisfied. Kate tasted the water. Something was not adding up. The water had a red colour. Kate paid more attention at the pipes. They were rusty. So Kate called the family and asked them when the last time that they had replaced the pipes was. They replied couldn’t remember ever replacing the pipes.


So, Kate decided to call the sanitary inspector and she presented a short version of the case. He advised her to tell the Bright family to put in their house some new pipes. This time it was the family’s fault, their carelessness. They thanked Kate and her friends, gave Cookie a bone and promised to replace the pipes.


It was Monday. As usual Kate expected the phone to ring. But it didn’t. And there was silence for several hours. At 3 o’clock on the dot, the phone rang, unexpectedly and insistently. Kate answered and she heard the voice of an old woman:


-Hello. I am Miss Dane. Something is wrong with the water from my fountain. I live in a house with my cat, Doty and we used to take the water from the fountain to drink it or to cook. But today, when I wanted to get a bucket of water something strange happened. The quality of water was not what it used to be. I am sure that the fertilisers and the pesticides applied to crops are the cause. I also know that they can seep into the ground and contaminate underwater rivers and waterbeds and thus compromise the quality of the water from my fountain. What do you think?

She seemed well informed.

-Hello, Miss Dane. I will be at your house in an hour. Hope that your cat is not afraid of dogs because I take Cookie, my dog, everywhere I go.

-It is all right, dear. And thank you for the good work you do. I know that you do this as a volunteer.

-Yes, Miss Dane. I really want to pass the interview to enter the University and after two or three years I will become a sanitary inspector as I wish. You know, it is my dream. Do you know that there are several types of water pollution? For example the chemical pollution, the groundwater pollution, the microbiological pollution, the nutrient pollution, the oxygen-depletion pollution and the surface water pollution, Kate said rapidly as if she was putting finishing touches to her preparation for an examination. Miss Dane seemed very interested in what Kate had told her. She also remembered that there were places in the world where there were no adequate water treatment systems and thus the population from that area could suffer from bilharzia or even cholera, two very dangerous diseases! Those diseases are caused by some microorganisms such as bacteria, protozoa and viruses.

Kate talked on the phone for about an hour. It seemed that she had found out her dream partner on this subject. After that, she arrived at Miss Dean’s home.

-Hello, dear. I am glad that you made it here. See for yourself, Dane said while showing Kate the fountain.

After a quick look, Kate had to recognize that Miss Dane was right. Kate also discovered that near Miss Dane’s house there was a land where corn grew and that corn was sprayed with fertilisers and pesticides. So, Kate went and talked with the owner of that land and explained him that what he was doing was affecting the water from that area. The man was surprised. He said he didn’t think at this. He promised to use something else for the crop from his land. End of case three!


It was Wednesday. The other day, on Tuesday, nothing happened. The phone was quiet all day. Kate found out that her family wanted to move. They wanted also Kate to change her school and also relocate to another town. This was bad! This was bad because she would be away from the team and also because that area was deserted. No water! No lake, no ocean nearby, not a river! Can you imagine? Just some tap water. She didn’t know what to say to them. She went out and she decided to call Marjorie:


-Hello, Marjorie. How are you?

-Hello, Kate. I am fine, thank you for asking. Someone from a hotel called me and asked me to announce the team. We have another case. It is something about their water having too much chlorine. They cannot use their water for cooking. It has a certain taste and you know… They want us to go and check and then to announce the authorities because their clients complain about the food.

-Yes, I know: water should not have any taste. O.k. We will go in about an hour.

-O.k., Kate. What about Jane?

-Jane didn’t answer the phone. I don’t know why.

-Try to call her again. It’s an important case.

-O.k. Bye!

The wheels from Kate’s brain started to move without making a sound. If there is too much chlorine in the water there must be a reason. Maybe the water had been infected and the authorities wanted to prevent the population from contacting some disease. In about an hour the team was at the hotel. But only Kate and Marjorie went because Jane didn’t answer the phone. Kate knew that Jane had an exam. Maybe that was the reason why she was not with them.


The girls went to the kitchen and started to talk to the cook. The cook was a gorgeous guy with blue eyes and curly black hair that was gazing at Kate. Kate was not interested. She was not interested because Jack, her boyfriend was impatiently waiting for her. Today was their anniversary. They had met about four years ago, the 2nd of February and, guess what, today was the 2nd of February. Kate and Jack had planned to go out and see a movie together and then maybe take a walk in the park near Kate’s home.


The cook’s name was Bill. Seeing that Kate was not interested in him he moved his attention towards Marjorie. He told her that the water was under any criticism. It had too much chlorine. One could feel the taste of it if he wanted to drink a glass of water. Even after boiling it something bothered the cooks. It kept the white colour that initially had when you wanted to get it. Marjorie put some water in a glass and using her instruments measured the amount of chlorine existent in it. It was a lot, indeed.

Kate called someone she knew that was responsible of the water sector in town and she asked why the water had so much chlorine. She was told that it happened accidently. They had hired a new guy and he didn’t know how much to use for keeping the water in a good condition. Kate asked them to fix the problem until tomorrow morning or the hotel would sue them. They were losing clients.


Meanwhile, Marjorie was talking in a corner with Bill. Kate saw that they were laughing and Marjorie seemed happy with her new friend. So, Kate thought: ‘Why not? Why not help Marjorie have a boyfriend! She seemed so lonely after Dean, that awful boyfriend she had, had left her.’ Kate invited Marjorie and Bill to go out with Jack and with her to see a film. The cook agreed and Marjorie looked very happy. The four new friends went to see ‘Titanic’, a film with a lot of water in it. Maybe it had too much.


After seeing the film, they went for a walk in the park nearby and Kate had an idea. What if Bill helped Jack with his exam? Jack wanted to be a cook and Bill seemed the right person. The next day, in the morning, Bill called Kate and told her that the problem with the water was solved and that starting that day he could help Jack with his recipes or with what else he had to do to become a cook.


It was the end of the week. Kate felt relaxed even though she had to prepare for the interview. The date of February 9th rapidly approached. She had to move fast. She had to revise Chemistry, Botany and some other subjects related to Sciences. Her main concern was to remember the types of water pollution because she had heard that the teacher who would interview her was fond of this subject. You should be unbeatable at this subject. But Kate had an advantage.


She had her team composed by Marjorie and Jane and by the sanitary inspector. Her team had helped her to better understand the water sector and those things related to water that for other people felt unfamiliar. She knew that a sanitary inspector had to perform a lot of duties among which she could name the supervision of the water-supply of a town, the maintenance of a register of wells, the disinfection of the water-supply in times of epidemics and so on. Briefly, all which was related to the water of a town was the sanitary inspector’s concern.


Kate was informed by her best friend that the minimum entry requirement for the course held by the University was that the candidate must have completed 10+2 with Science and that the duration of the course was one or three Academic years, depending on the University one had chosen. The admission for obtaining a Diploma in Sanitary Inspector course was generally based on merit basis and on a short interview. There were no entrance examinations conducted for this course anywhere in the country. The seats were allotted on the basis of marks secured by the candidates in class 10th or 12th.


Kate was preparing for her interview. She was re-reading the types of water pollution. She could not remember the nutrient pollution type. With the book in her hand she read carefully: ‘While the nutrients are vital for underwater flora and fauna to flourish, an excess of these can upset the delicate balance of water-based ecosystems. Fertilisers contain a high concentration of these nutrients which, if they contaminate rivers, lakes or other sources of water, can cause algal blooming and this could block the sunlight thus inhibiting the growth of other organisms.’


She had read and re-read this fragment but she could not understand what she was reading. Her thoughts were elsewhere. She continued to read about the oxygen-depletion pollution: ‘Another consequence of algal blooming is their consumption of oxygen supplies.


This means that those species which depend upon oxygen to survive are killed off, while anaerobic ones thrive. Some anaerobic microorganisms are capable of producing ammonia, sulphides and other harmful toxins, which can make the water even more dangerous to animals and to humans. They could become ill or even die.


Kate read, paying attention, but she could not understand why she should remember those things. She thought to call the sanitary inspector that was helping her and her team with the cases and to ask him to help her with this subject. She called Mr James Caldwell and in a minute all seemed so clear to her. When being at the interview she remembered the conversation. Initially, his wife answered:


-Hello. Could you pass me James, please? Thank you.

-Hello, Kate. It was my wife on the phone. I was on a meeting. I am working almost non-stop, you know. What was that you wanted to tell me?

-Hello, James. I don’t understand some of the words from the text I am reading for the interview. I feel lost without your explanations. What is an ecosystem? And fertilisers, what are they? Nutrients stand for what? What about anaerobic?

James started to patiently explain her the terms:


-An ecosystem is a biological community of interacting organisms and their physical environment. Now as for fertilisers, they are chemical or natural substances added to the soil or to the land for increasing its fertility. Like in the case of Miss Dean and the man with the corn who used fertilisers to increase his productivity. A nutrient is a substance that provides nourishment, which is essential for the maintenance of life and for growth. And anaerobic is a term that is related to or requires an absence of free oxygen.


Kate was paying attention. She started to write some of the answers. She knew that she would need them to pass that interview. She felt confident. More confident that in the morning when the postman or whoever that man was, had given her the letter of admission. Now she felt ready to go for her dream.


The phone rang. It was another case. She heard something like ‘surface water pollution’. The case was about a person who owned a trout stream. He had found fragments of plastic, rubber and other manmade materials floating on the water and he did not know what to think.

Because they were too robust to dissolve in the water and too big to mix effectively with the molecules, they were simply floating on the trout stream’s surface and they also prevented oxygen and sunlight from penetrating below. The trout started to die, the man felt desperate, so when he heard about Kate’s team, he decided to give her a chance.


Kate went to his trout stream and she saw with her own eyes how a man was intentionally throwing his garbage into the water. Kate shouted at him and asked him to stop.

She found out after a while that the man was Mr James’ neighbour and that he was envious because Mr James owned a trout stream.

When Kate talked to him, the man recognized that he was affecting not only his neighbour but also other people and promised to stop and to try to clean the mess that he had caused.

After a while, Kate found out that the man had kept his promises. He even enrolled in a team who helped keeping clean other rivers, lakes and even the sea. The team he had enrolled in was helping with preserving the quality of water and he was trying to prevent accidental oil spills or negligent industries emptying waste into water bodies.

It’s February, the 9th. Today it is her birthday, but she is not at a party. She feels confident. She enters the room and she attends the questions. She is in front of a commission of people that does not stress her because she knows all the answers. The commission has one last question for her: ‘Why do you want so much be a sanitary inspector?’

Her answer seems to please them: ‘I care more about others. I care about their health, I care about environment, I care about the planet. And I also like all that it is related to this. When I was little I didn’t know much about the job of sanitary inspector, but when I have found out what it was all about I wanted to become one.’

And guess what? She was at the top of their list!