A Day in the Life of a Stormwater Specialist and Nature Nerd

What is a typical day in the life of a Stormwater Specialist? Well, that's kind of a tough question to answer. One of the many things I love about my job is that every day is different and there is always so many different things going on, surprises, and unexpected adventures. I suppose there are two types of typical days for me, office days and field days.

Office days usually consist of being curled up in my office chair working on various tasks such as creating our LinkedIn posts, writing a blog ;), attending meetings, maybe a webinar, drafting Technical Advisory Reports for the Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWP3) inspections performed the previous day, or doing SWP3 reviews for upcoming construction projects within Cuyahoga County.

What is a SWP3 plan? I am glad you asked. Civil engineers are required to design a SWP3 plan for project that create any earth disturbance over an acre in size. These plans outline and plan where best management practices (BMPs) should be installed throughout the project to minimize the amount of sediment that comes off the site because of construction activities. These practices include such things as sediment ponds, silt fencing or compost filter sock (that black fence or sausage rolls you see along the perimeter of construction sites, storm drain inlet protection, stone construction entrances, street cleaning, and concrete washout pits to prevent chemical pollutants from leaving the site. They also consist of permanent stormwater features for water quality to help ensure that cleaner water is leaving the property before it reaches the storm sewers, streams, rivers, lakes, or wetlands.

Cuyahoga Soil & Water reviews these plans to ensure that all the Ohio EPA Construction General Permit regulations are being met prior to the municipality's final approval of the project. Some plans are straight forward, and others come with several types of challenges, every plan review is different. Even office days come with surprises, like helping an opossum that was stuck on the railing of our building.

Field days are by far the most interesting and full of surprises and adventures. For me, a typical field day is performing monthly SWP3 inspections at various construction sites on behalf of that municipality. This happens after the SWP3 has been approved and put into practice at the site. It is my job to go out monthly, rain or shine or snow, to inspect the site and ensure that the SWP3 is properly implemented and to check if any of the stormwater BMPs need repairs. Active construction sites are constantly changing as the project progresses, so every inspection is a bit different month to month, and it is always interesting to see a project from beginning to end. I have also learned so much about construction and some of the ins and outs as a result and I certainly have a greater appreciation for what these folks do and what goes into construction. We also do our best to ensure that they are doing it with as little impact to the environment as possible and pass our knowledge along as well as to why it's important to do so.

Spring, summer, and fall field days also consist of post-construction stormwater inspections. These are yearly inspections of the permanent stormwater features at a site on behalf of that municipality, such as stormwater detention basins/ponds, bioretention cells, pervious pavers, underground detention systems, and hydrodynamic separators to see if they are functioning as designed and if they need any repairs or maintenance. These come with their own host of challenges like making our way through thick, and sometimes prickly vegetation, insects, heavy lifting, research, investigation, and mystery solving.

Field days also lead to some great adventures like hiking through the woods on towpath or trail projects, scenic views, hanging out on runways tailgating passenger planes, off-roading, strapping on a harness and inspecting a green roof, observing all kinds of cool wildlife, and even sometimes getting chased by or rescuing wildlife.

On rare occasions office and field days can also unexpectedly make your family a little bigger and sometimes we even put them to work.

Being paid to do what I can to help the environment and wildlife, hiking, working indoors and out, and being allowed to have my critters help me. Yup, I love my job.

Blog Author: Kelly Parker, Stormwater Specialist II

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