Last month we introduced Ventura Water's Laboratory Team, who perform meticulous sampling and testing to keep the water coming in and out of the City up to water quality standards. This month we focus on a team that also functions to ensure public health and safety. The paramount responsibility of the Environmental Compliance Team is to protect our wastewater infrastructure by preventing illegal dumping of prohibited pollutants. This is accomplished through a rigorous monitoring and inspection program. By extension, they are also safeguarding the natural environment since treated wastewater is discharged into the Santa Clara River Estuary and eventually, the Pacific Ocean.
Senior Environmental Compliance Inspector Baylie Martinez is one of a three-member team. Two inspectors monitor sources and perform inspections. Their supervisor oversees the program to ensure adherence to Ventura Water's National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit, and EPA regulations for effluent—the treated wastewater discharged into the estuary. Baylie explains that not only are they protecting the treatment plant and the environment, but also the safety of plant operators by preventing exposure to dangerous substances.
Baylie holds a Bachelor of Science degree in environmental management & protection and is certified by the California Water Environment Association as a Grade II Environmental Compliance Inspector. Environmental compliance inspectors monitor certain industrial users—businesses whose operations include the use of harmful substances, such as acetone, a solvent used in metal refinishing. Produce processors require monitoring of organics that could alter the wastewater plant's oxygen demand, pH, or the load of dissolved and suspending solids. Identified users must have pre-treatment systems in place to reduce the discharge of pollutants. The team makes sure pre-treatment systems are operating correctly, are not bypassed, and that disposal of regulated pollutants is done properly.
Restaurants are regulated to prevent the discharge of fats, oil, and grease (FOG). When FOG is discharged into the sewer it accumulates in the pipes, eventually creating blockages. Therefore, the Environmental Compliance Team conducts biannual inspections of restaurants and their grease control devices. They also run the Mobile Reuse Program where City residents can pick up recycled water from the treatment plant for specific uses, like dust control and landscape irrigation.
Another part of Baylie's job is public outreach. She leads tours of the Ventura Water Reclamation Facility (VWRF), creates literature to educate users on regulations and she's a regular contributor to the Pipeline Newsletter. Anticipating the City's advanced water purification facility, Baylie is currently helping to develop the enhanced source control program and the necessary outreach.
Baylie says one of the most challenging aspects of her job is helping small businesses understand the importance of regulations while appreciating the potentially prohibitive costs associated with environmental compliance. Her favorite part of a workday is giving local students tours of the VWRF. She says it's fun to see their reaction to the sights and smells of the plant and educate them about such a vital part of the community, one they might not know exists!
Our series on the people and processes of Ventura Water has flowed from the procurement to the treatment of water after it's been used by the community. But there's a lot more to the picture—other groups that support our mission to provide safe and reliable water services, including Administration, Customer Care and Information Technology. Also, the exciting work being done for the VenturaWaterPure program. Stay tuned, there's more to come.