SHIRLEY PAK, DISTRICT STORM WATER COORDINATOR
Shirley Pak and her staff in the Division of Design, Office of Engineering Services, are keeping a close watch on the environment.
With a renewed emphasis today on conservation, pollution prevention and “going green,” Caltrans is fortunate to have District Storm Water Coordinator Shirley Pak at the helm of the storm water prevention program. With nearly 20 years of Caltrans state service and a background as a hydraulic engineer designing freeway drainage systems, Pak, a senior transportation engineer and her staff, keep a close eye on storm water pollution prevention and trash mitigation for all Caltrans projects.
Since 2000, Pak and her staff in the Division of Design, Office of Engineering Services, review all of Caltrans transportation projects to ensure that Caltrans is not just building great transportation improvement projects -- but also is preserving the environment at the same time. “We have a very important job,” said Pak. “As transportation systems became more urbanized, pollution became a side effect. One of our functions is to help protect the environment and integrate mitigation measures into each project – and to always be pollution-conscious when designing our projects.”
“Shirley is a very hard working conscientious worker,” said her supervisor Jai Paul Thakur. “She is very knowledgeable in the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit requirements and works very hard to keep the District in compliance by thoroughly reviewing the Stormwater Data Reports (SWDR).”
Public education is also important to Pak’s mission. With help from educational materials provided by Headquarters, Pak and her staff distribute Don’t Trash California brochures and posters to public schools, county fairs, at stakeholder meetings and to partner agencies, helping to educate the public about the importance of pollution prevention. “I have heard many compliments on her working relationships with internal and external customers,” added Thakur. “She has built up an excellent rapport with the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board. I am very pleased to have her in the Office of Engineering Services.”
Pak also explained that it is important to keep cigarette butts and other forms of litter from entering into bodies of water, such as lakes, rivers, water pipes and the ocean (also referred to as "receiving waters"). Caltrans uses different devices which work like filters, to help trap trash, sediments and even more invisible pollutants like chemicals and pesticides (which attach to sediment) from entering waterways. “Caltrans is always looking for opportunities to put in the best treatment devices for Best Management Practices (BMP’s) -- to treat water before it goes into the receiving waters,” she explained.
One example of a BMP is called a Gross Solid Removal Devise – or a stainless steel device in a concrete chamber which traps cigarette butts 5 millimeters or greater – and works like a sieve or strainer helping to trap trash and debris and which also connects to the Caltrans drainage system – allowing only water to move through. Another example is a grass swale, which is a more natural filtering system using grass at an open channel where the grass itself works as a filter for chemical and pollutants.
Pak feels that she and her staff are doing important work. She said, “While Caltrans continues to improve the quality of life for Californians through our important transportation improvement projects, we are also mindful of the social impacts that make our work more meaningful.”