Brendan Walsh works a job that 99.9% in the world would never do
What happens when a motor breaks in a solid sewage waste plant? They send Brendan in full protective gear to fix it. How can he possibly do this? His secrets include listening to AC/DC and avoiding chicken before he dive. Oh yeah, and he’s not claustrophobic.
Excerpt from the Vice Interview
VICE: Hi, Brendan. Why are you doing this?
Brendan Walsh: I’m doing it because in Australia, we don’t process our sewerage with chemicals. We get bacteria to break down the solids by aerating them with big stirring machines, 24 hours a day. It’s a very aggressive environment, and moving parts constantly break.
So what’s broken here?
One of the motors. The motors are all in the ponds, and there’s no other way to access them without getting in. And it’s completely black down there, so we have to do everything by feel. Sewage farms take thousands of photos of their site, before they fill up the ponds, so we look carefully at the photos before we get in. The diver then makes the repairs in the dark by talking to the guys above the surface. The dive suits are all connected via radio, so we can provide directions in real time.
That all sounds like a design flaw. Shouldn’t there be an easier way?
Ah, you’d think so, but then it gives me a job. Got to earn the ex-wife money somehow.
So what is it like when you’re down there?
It’s completely black, and you have to more walk than swim. There’s no smell, though. All your air is bottled, so it’s actually worse for the guys who have to decontaminate you when you get out.
Do you ever get claustrophobic?
No, I wouldn’t do it if I did. You need two years of training to become a diver, and that weeds out anyone with claustrophobia. Also, we can pipe music through the suits’ radio system. We’ll play the guys whatever they want to hear. It keeps them happy.
What do you listen to?
I listen to AC/DC. “Back in Black” is my all-time favorite song, but you can’t do any air guitar when you’re working.