The Problem with Stormwater Training

The Problem with Stormwater Training

“This one doesn’t look good either,” my co-worker, Tim, mumbled in my direction.

“Where is it this time?” I asked, turning from my computer to look in his direction.

“Massachusetts,” he mumbled again, scrolling through the annual report “They’ve done a good job with reporting their inspections and keeping track of all the work that goes on in their city, but nothing on training.”

“I’m starting to wonder,” I replied in frustration, “If there is a single MS4 that does any training anywhere.”

My co-worker Tim and I have been working on a new training program for stormwater managers. The past few weeks of research have been quite telling to the nations stormwater situation.

Some of the MS4’s we have contacted claimed to do training. Mostly they mumble something about In-house training sessions or far flung Stormwater symposiums that they fly out to every year, but nothing substantial. These training efforts are paltry in comparison to the ever-increasing EPA training regulations. Stormwater managers across the nation are overworked and stressed.

The problem of stormwater training is cyclic in nature. First, the EPA increases their standards on training in the hopes of improving water quality across the nation. Many MS4’s ignore or remain unaware of these new requirements due to a disconnect between federal and state programs. Some Stormwater Managers, many of whom fulfill several municipal roles, attempt to fulfill these requirements; however, even these good-intentioned managers face several difficult obstacles.

Cities have strict budgets especially in regards to training. Getting new training programs approved and financed take time and no small measure of persuasion. Most Stormwater Training Managers are too busy to employ either resource.

Even with funding Stormwater managers have to find these mystical new training programs. I have tried on the internet for such programs, none seem to exist. There is the odd, outdated website with training videos that look like they were made in the 70’s or maybe the engineering firm that charges ridiculous amounts to train you in everything but stormwater. For most managers, in-house trainings seem like the only solution.

The joys of in house training I think sardonically, reflecting on other jobs where I was trained that way. Bland rooms with a projector showing a bland video while an underpaid, or worse overpaid, “expert” drones on about something while everyone in the room checks the clock.


“This city is only training their stormwater guys,” Tim continued, looking at a new report “no training for the rest of their municipality.”


“I’m sure that will go well for them,” I replied. I could already hear the phone call.


Caller: “Hey, some guy’s car is leaking oil on the road. It looks like it’s getting in the drain.”


Public Works Secretary: “Um…let me see…uh…well…try calling the police.”


“They have an outreach program,” Tim continued

“Really?”

“Yeah, they hire some consultant to talk to third graders.”

“Oh good,” I replied, “I’m sure that will get to their parents eventually.” Another conversation popped in my head.

Dad: “Hi sweetie, how was school?”

Girl: “It was okay, some lady gave us candy that looked like rain drops.”

Dad: “That’s nice. Can you get your brother for me? We need to go out to the driveway to wash the car.”

Conversations like these with my co-worker Tim have illuminated for me the problems with stormwater training. It is not being done correctly and thoroughly in most MS4’s. Those MS4’s that are doing training are spending to much money and time.  Thorough and cost effective training is feasible, but it will take real change in MS4’s, and change has growing pains.