As I sat pondering this column, I said to myself, "Self, what shall I write about this month? What do people want to know? Why don't they send me any questions?"
My self was baffled. While we receive lots of nice comments about this column, we seldom receive questions. So, unless you begin sending them to me, you'll just have to make do with those I glean from other sources. Here's your golden opportunity. You, too, can become famous by having your question printed in this column! Send them to me at email@example.com.
"We currently do not pick up animal feces (cat/dog litter) in our garbage collection operations with rear loader packers. We have a statement from our Health Department saying this is a health hazard to our employees and, as a recommendation, residents need to take their litter to the landfill or flush it down the sewer system. Does anyone have a policy regarding animal feces and is it a problem with putting it in the municipal sewer system?" asks Larry Dixon, Director of Public Works, Shelby, NC.
Considering an answer to this question, I decided that rural Missouri must be so used to having all forms of fertilizer around, we haven't thought about this being a problem! The answers that come from some of our members ranged, as you would expect, from not regulating the disposal of animal feces at all to requiring it to be double-bagged before being placed in the garbage. One of our members reminded us that disposing of cat wastes by flushing it down the sanitary sewer is often not a good idea since it usually is embedded in cat litter and this can create problems for the homeowner's lateral causing plugging. Some folks also don't know the difference between placing it in a sanitary sewer and in a storm sewer, which, of course, feeds directly into surface waters. Not a good idea!
"With the new 'public education and outreach' minimum control measures mandates by the Phase II rule, must we tell the public that dumping used motor oil down a storm drain harms receiving waters as a statement of fact, or by doing so, are we simply stating a political message which may upset and confuse our patrons? How much must we say?"
A recent lawsuit filed by the Texas Cities Coalition of Stormwater and the Texas Counties Stormwater Coalition contended that the "public education and outreach" minimum control measures violates the First Amendment by forcing municipalities to deliver a political ideology. The challengers argued that the protection of free speech bars EPA "from compelling small MS4s to communicate messages they might not otherwise wish to deliver." The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with them saying that informing the public about stormwater and safe disposal of materials is not ideological, is not the "compelled recitation of a message" and requires no "affirmation of belief." Using good common sense in telling your citizens all they need to know without creating a furor in the name of "public outreach" seems to be the best method of dealing with the issue.
"I keep hearing about 'Smart Growth' but I'm not certain how it pertains to public works. In our agency, we only get involved with it when the project is built and problems arise. How are we supposed to deal with it?"
Very carefully. No one wants to say they are opposed to "Smart Growth" because that would mean they want "Dumb Growth" if you take things literally. An APWA Task Force has been studying the issue and how it relates to public works agencies. The greatest connection appears to involve bringing public works professionals to the table in the earliest planning stages to incorporate the needs for water, sewers, streets, etc., before the plans are drawn and the project constructed. Getting this invitation early and being invited to participate up front seems to be the major concern. Once again, the issue seems to be getting planners, developers and managers to consider not only the construction issues but the ability to continue providing the same quality of life twenty years after the project is built out and the problems begin. For more information on Smart Growth, you might like to visit some of the following websites: American Planning Association — www.planning.org; Urban Land Institute — www.uli.org; Sustainable Communities Network — www.sustainable.org; National Association of Counties (NACo) — www.naco.org; National Association of Local Government Environmental Professionals (NALGEP) — www.nalgetp.org.
Questions are welcome.
Please address all inquiries to:
Director of Technical Services
APWA, 2345 Grand Blvd.
Kansas City, MO 64108-2625
Fax questions to (816) 472-0405