Eco-tip: Students can dig into Public Works Week with tons of online material
by David Goldstein, PWA – IWMD
Special to Ventura County Star
This week is Public Works Week, and the American Public Works Association’s 2021 theme, “Stronger Together,” fits well with the way local educators are working.
Despite the pandemic, they are collaborating with the Ventura County Public Works Agency to bring a learning opportunity to students.
In previous years, heavy equipment displays were a highlight of in-person Public Works Week activities, but due to social distancing requirements related to COVID-19, this is the second year organizers are relying instead on remote learning activities.
Over 1,400 local students are already registered for online learning activities related to Public Works Week in Ventura County, and the website of the Ventura County Public Works Agency offers opportunities for many more.
Teachers who complete a survey under the Public Works Week heading on the landing page at www.vcpublicworks.org can click on a link to have lesson material sent to them via videos, physical materials or both.
Age-appropriate material is available for various age groups on the topics of watershed protection, disaster preparedness, information/technology, drones, construction and public transit. Materials also cover how signs are made, how to compost and what a day in the life of a public works employee looks like.
Also, starting Monday, anyone on the website may click on a Public Works Week link to see a video featuring many public works projects benefitting the environment. In one such video, Don Sheppard, who manages a collection center for household hazardous waste, leads a tour for children who ask questions.
Cortney Rasura, an administrative assistant who filmed the video, said the video “is informative for people to learn how to properly dispose of their hazardous waste and to learn how the waste is stored and handled once it has been collected.”
The Ventura County Pollution Prevention Center, located between Ventura and Ojai, is the site of the video, and the center also accepts material from businesses categorized as “conditionally exempt small quantity generators.”
Although hazardous waste service to residents is provided without charge, partially funded by a fee on waste hauler’s collection charges, businesses must pay to use the service. However, these businesses, generating less than 220 pounds of hazardous waste per month, save money compared to the cost of contracting with a company to collect hazardous waste from their site.
As another benefit, the county assumes generator status, freeing businesses of potential long-term liability for their hazardous waste.
The Public Works Agency’s Watershed Protection staff also produced videos featured on the Public Works Week link at www.vcpublicworks.org. Two professionally produced videos, made with assistance from Consortium Media, feature water management projects.
One shows how Watershed Protection connected the Piru storm drain system to United Water Conservation District’s water infiltration basin to recharge groundwater. Before water enters the infiltration basin, it is filtered and cleaned as much as possible, but one lesson shown by this video is the need to prevent litter, pet waste and other contaminants from flowing into storm drains.
The other profiled project features the Fresno Canyon diversion. To reduce repeated flooding in the Casitas Springs community and along State Route 33, the new Fresno Canyon Diversion storm drain facility, approximately 1,500 feet in length, includes a 9-foot reinforced concrete pipe guiding water to the Ventura River. Crews installed the pipe under State Route 33, using a new pipe jack system which allowed traffic to flow during construction.
A third Watershed Protection project featured in the videos is the Monarch Butterfly Enhancement Project. Habitat loss, loss of native nectar sources and climate change have cut Monarch populations 90%.
So watershed staff teamed up with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to enhance native pollinator habitat and improve Western Monarch butterfly overwintering and breeding sites within Ventura County. Student workers involved in this project helped put together the presentation, and students interested in a career in science can see some field work.
Careers are also the focus of a video from Public Works’ Central Services Department; the Engineering Division provides a video on taking a project from plans to reality; Roads and Transportation shows how loop detectors help manage traffic; Water and Sanitation demonstrates operation of a leak correlator; and Watershed Protection provides information on how you can prepare and respond to flooding.
Go to www.vcpublicworks.org or Ventura County Public Works Agency social media channels for more information. David Goldstein is an Environmental Resource Analyst with the Ventura County Public Works Agency and may be reached at 805-658-4312 or firstname.lastname@example.org.