CALTRANS MAINTENANCE STORM WATER PROGRAM - Hard Work and Dedication to the Environment
'If it’s raining and nothing happens, that’s because we are doing our jobs so well.' - Robin Henry, Caltrans Maintenance, Commerce.
In addition to and complementing District 7’s Caltrans Culvert Inspection Program, the Division of Maintenance performs other vitals functions to keep California’s waterways and oceans clean. As part of a year ‘round preventive maintenance effort, Maintenance Superintendents Glen Mellinger and David Lawrence, as well as Supervisors Doug Johnson and Angel Escobedo, have the distinct responsibility of implementing the District 7 Maintenance Storm Water Program (MSWP). They strive to keep District 7 in compliance with the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permit to reduce and or eliminate pollutants (litter, hydrocarbons, sediment etc.) to the Maximum Extent Practicable (MEP) from being discharged from Caltrans right of way into receiving waters, thereby keeping rivers and oceans clean.
The MSWP includes: training Maintenance employees about storm water practices, conducting facility inspections, maintenance activity inspections, investigating illicit connections and illegal discharges into the Caltrans drainage systems, monitoring and evaluating Best Management Practices (BMPs) implementation and effectiveness as related to Maintenance activities, as well as administering the storm drain cleaning program.
Mellinger and Lawrence accelerate these efforts just prior to the rainy season each year. “We make it a top priority to clean and clear culverts of litter and debris so that rain water is not backed up onto the roadways, causing a potentially unsafe situation for motorists,” said Mellinger. “Safety is Caltrans’ number one priority.”
Johnson is responsible for keeping the Facility Pollution Prevention Plans up to date for the 50 Maintenance facilities throughout District 7. In addition, he reviews proposed storm water compliance programs for elements related to Maintenance activities. And Escobedo is the District’s Erosion Control Coordinator. His responsibility is to investigate potential problems areas where there could be erosion control issues. In addition, he assists Maintenance crews in coordinating erosion control efforts and provides needed materials and expertise.
The District 7 MSWP requires a commitment from every Maintenance employee in the District,” said Richard Gordon, Brand Chief for the MSWP. “Dave, Glen, Angel and Doug do a great job of communicating the important and benefits of the program to the Division. They also maintain an excellent relationship with the other Divisions. This is important because whatever is planned, designed and construction must ultimately be maintained forever.”
Assisting is Maintenance Supervisor Angel Escobedo, who is the District’s Erosion Control Coordinator. His responsibility is to investigate problem areas where there could be erosion issues. In addition, he assists Maintenance crews in coordinating erosion controls efforts and provides needed materials needed in the field.
Augmenting all of these efforts is a busy storm water crew based out of the Caltrans Maintenance yard in Commerce, supervised by Robin Henry. This staff is responsible for maintaining the many structural BMPs, such as Gross Solids Removal Devices GSRD’s which are designed to trap litter and sediment, media filters (big sand boxes used for filtering), and bio swales (a ditch lined with heavy grass to filter suspended pollutants) throughout the District. These storm water devices are maintained by inspecting for specific thresholds which trigger specific maintenance activities. There are over 200 structural BMP devices in the District. This crew is specially trained to monitor these devices year ‘round. “These devices are specially designed to keep debris out of the storm water drainage system to keep beaches and waterways clean.”
Last year alone, Henry’s crews removed over 100 cubic yards of debris from one facility alone, which has the distinction of being the largest storm water device of its kind in the United States. It is known as the Thompson Creek Continuous Deflective Separate Unit near I-210 in Claremont. This underground structure is approximately 25 feet deep and creates a vortex of water that allows the water to escape through a screen while the contaminants are deflected into a sump and later removed. The litter-filled water comes in – and goes out clean -- leaving the debris behind. Styrofoam cups, plastic bags, cigarettes and a host other types of litter and trash are collected and later dumped into special collection bins. This is only one of hundreds of BMPs located all across District 7. “If it’s raining and nothing happens, that’s because we are doing our jobs so well,” said Henry.
There are also over 30,000 drop inlet drains, actually located on freeways where water flows into the inlet and drops into collection areas – then into a larger drainage system. Caltrans contractors work in partnership to clean those, as well as approximately 7,000 inlets annually during their nighttime drain cleaning operations. Under the supervision of Caltrans Maintenance, the contractors use what is called a Vactor machine, which looks like a vacuum the size of a concrete mixer on wheels. The Vactor sucks up the materials from the inlets and drains in never-ending operations removing tons of debris yearly. “It’s not a glamorous job for Caltrans crews and our contractors, but an essential job – and done properly, protects our beaches and environment – and prevents flooding and erosion,” Henry added.
Overseeing it all is Roger Castillo, Maintenance Manager, Hazardous Materials/Storm Water, Culvert Inspection Unit, who says he is proud of the work accomplished by his staff. “It is through the hard work and dedication to the environment by these Caltrans storm water employees that help to make southern California such a desirable place to live, work and play,” said Castillo. “I am happy to have such a fine group of dedicated employees working under my supervision.”