Q: Brendan, what do we have in store as far as rain in the first few days of the new year?
A: We’ve had significant rain events over the winter break, with another one forecasted for this week and possibly another this weekend. They’re atmospheric rivers, also known as the Pineapple Express, that’s bringing us the rain. People can follow the Lab’s rainfall totals at the rain gauge on the Lab’s meteorological tower which is located near Buildings 27 and 53.
Q: Besides the obvious – things getting wet – why does rainfall matter at the Lab’s hill site?
A: The Lab’s hill site is located within the Strawberry Creek watershed. We want to be good environmental stewards of the land and the watershed. We also have regulatory obligations. The Lab is regulated for stormwater discharges by the California State Water Resources Control Board. We have a site-wide general permit along with individual construction general permits. Currently, we have three construction permits for on-going work at the Old Town Demolition Project, construction at BioEPIC project next to Building 91, and also for the start of the project that will replace the cafeteria with a new building and transportation hub.
Q: What type of actions are needed at construction sites to protect the watershed?
A: We want to eliminate or control potential pollutants from entering the watershed, so we implement various types of stormwater controls such as using straw wattles and covers over construction stockpiles. I work closely with our construction management teams and conduct routine spot checks to ensure our stormwater controls are properly installed and maintained.
Q: But you can’t cover 200 acres on your own. How do you make sure that the right things are done?
A: I can’t do it alone. Protecting the watershed is a collective effort. When there is a rain event forecast, I send out a precipitation broadcast to about 350 people at the Lab who play a part. The list includes, among others, construction and project managers, PMTs, groundskeepers, custodians, and building managers. They each can take action to make sure it’s “Only Rain in The Drain.”
Q: What about everyone else? Is there something we can do to help when it rains?
A: I need everyone to help with stormwater compliance. If you see an open lid on an outdoor trash or recycle bin, close it. Rainwater can mix with the bin’s contents then possibly leak out and discharge to a storm drain inlet. At each of the Lab’s gates, there is a a blue sign reminding people they are entering the Strawberry Creek watershed. This is an awareness mechanism, and a good reminder of how you can help with stormwater compliance while maintaining environmental stewardship of our beautiful lab site. If you have questions or concerns, contact me.
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