Hazardous MaterialsLitigationOnline TrainingStormwater

Learning about stormwater permits from inspection to sampling to Best Management Practices (BMPs) can be difficult (duh!). How about training others that don’t have a full-time job in environmental compliance? Maybe stormwater is only one tiny, but important, role they have in making a facility function smoothly. Do you struggle with training employees about stormwater?

Well, stormwater training can be downright daunting! I have taught hundreds of facilities over the past few years, so I put together a few tips and tricks for you about how to teach others about industrial stormwater issues and permit requirements. Read on for some quick tips on general awareness stormwater training and pollution prevention team training.

#1 Make Stormwater Relatable

Many people feel a disconnect when it comes to their personal lives and stormwater pollution. The first thing I always do in my stormwater awareness training and stormwater team training sessions is to make stormwater relatable to my audience.

Getting to Know You

So we have all heard this song, “getting to know you, getting to know all about you…”, and it’s a great starting point when training for just about anything. Getting to know your audience and what their roles are on the stormwater team and in the company, is essential to how you form the rest of your session. Making it interactive also allows the team to feel involved in the training agenda and become more comfortable with the trainer.

OK, so I know that some of the trainers will already know who the members of their stormwater team are, but do you know what these team members like to do after work? After getting to know a little more about the stormwater team’s roles, I dig deeper into their personal lives and how their activities could potentially be linked to stormwater. Do you fish, or swim in rivers, lakes, the ocean? Who eats fish? Who have children that swim in waterways or eat fish?

By making a personal connection to how stormwater pollution could impact their personal lives or the ones they care about, it makes protecting industrial stormwater discharges a higher priority. Anyone who fishes, swims or eats fish out of the ocean will be affected by stormwater pollution because stormwater goes straight out into our oceans, rivers, and lakes, carrying many industrial pollutants with it.

Stormwater vs Wastewater

Next, I ask my audience, “who can tell me the difference between stormwater and wastewater?” Many EHS&S professionals will know the answer to this, but the average person who has not obtained a degree in an environmental field, will not. Wastewater is sent to a wastewater treatment plant and treated before it is released into waterways. Whereas, stormwater is not typically treated prior to entering our waterways. This means that any pollutants in stormwater runoff from industrial facilities, discharge directly into our waterways and causes the rivers and ocean to become polluted. This is a pretty basic concept when you think about it, but not many in the training have usually paused to think about the differences between flushing a toilet and a nearby storm drain.

Once the audience understands the difference between the two and realizes how industrial stormwater can affect waterways, they begin to understand why it is so vital to prevent pollutants from entering stormwater run-off.

#2 The Whys and What Ifs

Explaining why the facility is under a stormwater permit and what could happen if they are not in compliance with the rules and regulations can help to put things in perspective for staff members.

The Whys

Many times your training audience will feel like “why do we have to do all of this stupid stormwater nonsense?” Well, the number one reason is that there are state and federal regulations that require facilities with industrial activities that are exposed to stormwater to prevent pollutants from entering waterways. Providing industrial facilities with stormwater permits allows for the State to monitor the levels of pollutants in stormwater discharges and determine if additional assistance is required (reports, help from professionals, implementation of additional control measures, etc.).

Other than the requirements under regulations we all want to protect the environment right? No, just me and the other stormwater nerds at Mapistry? Well, the next generation would sure appreciate clean drinking water resources and uncontaminated seafood.

The most important reason for facilities is that they do not want to get sued. Getting sued can be detrimental to a facility depending on the size of the facility and could even cause the facility to go out of business (see Mapistry’s guide for Plant Managers on the business side of stormwater permits – lawsuits, fines, and jail time).

The What Ifs

When giving a training I always make sure to emphasize what could happen if the facility does not abide by the rules and regulations set forth by the state and federal regulators. Facilities could get fined by the state or federal government. In California, facilities can be fined up to $52,414 per day, per violation!

As mentioned above you can also get sued by citizen enforcers. Lawsuits can be based on not having updates Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plans (SWPPPs), inaccurate or incomplete site maps, but the number one reason facilities get sued if for sampling data about the thresholds. Though it is not a violation of the permit to exceed numeric action levels (NALs), citizens can sue under the clean water act stating that the pollutants are causing a “nuisance”. Lawsuits can cost companies hundreds of thousands of dollars, and even millions depending on the size of the company.

The bottom line is that if you do not implement best management practices (BMPs), conduct your monitoring, sampling, and other permit requirements, then everyone could be out of a job. This point usually gets the pollution prevention team’s attention and they begin to pay attention and take what you are saying seriously.

#3 Make Stormwater Fun

Last but not least, it is really important to make the stormwater training fun so that you can keep your audience engaged and not falling asleep during your presentation.

Interactive Components

Keeping your audience engaged can be tricky, but is very important so that they actually learn from the training. I like to do this by adding interactive components to the presentation. Pop quizzes are a great way of scaring your audience into paying attention. Either start the employee training with a quiz or stating that there will be a quiz at the end always makes people sweat a little :). Games are also a fun way of grabbing the attention of employees. Along with these quizzes and game, you can have prizes to pass out to the trainees, or give incentives for them to participate during the training.

Site Walk

At the end of every session, sum up the training with a site walk. The site walk is my favorite part of the training and arguably the most critical component of stormwater training, because this is where the rubber meets the road. I take the entire team out on a site walk where we are able to complete a mock stormwater inspection. During our walk, I point out any deficiencies in BMPs, potential pollutant sources, non-stormwater discharges (NSWDs), explain corrective actions, and cover proper sampling techniques.

I find that this is my audiences favorite part of the training as well because they can actually see how the classroom ideas are applied out in the yard. They also have the opportunity to ask questions about stormwater issues that have happened in the past or how certain situations should be handled. Many times during these site walks an NSWD will occur or there will be an oil leak or spill, this gives the opportunity to train in real time, by fixing the issue and helping them to document it.

Mapistry on a stormwater site walk

Go For It! Start Training

Now that you have some additional tips and techniques on how to engage your team during stormwater training, get out there and start training! Don’t forget to get to know your audience, explain the whys and the what ifs, and make the training interactive by utilizing different approaches and scenarios. Want a professional to come out and train your stormwater team? Our stormwater nerds are ready to teach you how to be a stormwater professor or give your team a new opinion of stormwater training, without using toothpicks to keep their eyelids open.