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City workers given pollution prevention training

By Staff | Sep 26, 2013

City of Sanibel employees, primarily Public Works Department staffers, were schooled this week in identifying illicit discharges and pollution prevention technologies.

Lee County Division of Natural Resources representatives delivered a slideshow of past violations discovered or processed by inspectors in the course of their daily work. These violations ranged from motor oil dumps, construction site runoff hazards, trash littering stormwater ditches and culverts, septic system bypass or leakage.

The two-part session attended by about a dozen Public Works members, is part of the county agency’s annual Pollution Prevention Program supervised by Dale Nottingham.

“The idea is to see that hazardous waste never hits the ground,” said Nottingham. “It’s called prevention. Used motor oil is not a hazardous waste until it hits the ground. Used oil is a commodity. You can sell it to be recycled.”

The program is presented to a wide range of public service workers and first responders to give them the tools to identify a possible pollution problem and alert inspectors and investigators.

“We’ve trained sheriff’s deputies to recognize discharges,” said Nottingham. “it means more eyes in the field through education.”

The prevailing theme of the presentation is – nothing but rain in the drain. This idea promotes better water quality for everyone.

Presenters offered discussion of federal laws as well as local laws and regulations designed to protect our waterways and defined the nature of “illicit discharge.”

Construction sites violate regulations whenever they allow rainwater runoff unprotected into ditches and canals that lead to creeks, lakes and rivers. Runoff picks up dirt, silt and other contaminants across the site and flows into the water system.

The slideshow offered visual aid showing chemical and oil spills allowed to or purposely dumped into stormwater drains; car washes with clogged catch basins polluting drains; golf course fertilizer stations not properly protecting runoff; unauthorized hoses or PVC pipes carrying dirty water from houses, septics or businesses directly into swales and ditches instead of sewers; grass clippings stacking up around drains; even mud tracked onto roadways by trucks at construction areas allowed to be washed into area waters by rain.

Nottingham also pointed out that allowing fluorescent light bulbs containing mercury to find its way into our waterways harms the fishery and humans that consume them. He went over proper handling and disposal of these and other mercury-containing items as well as electronics equipment, computers and monitors. Computers and monitors contain an average of four to eight pounds of lead.

Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) policy soon will be changed by law, becoming Safety Data Sheet (SDS). These data sheets help protect workers who are concerned about what they are coming into contact with. They are required to be made available by your employer.

“Everything is very similar to the program we have in MSDS,” said Nottingham.

Lee County’s electronics recycling facility is located at 6441 Topaz Court off Metro Parkway. For more information call (239) 533-8000.