Learn about the work of the workers behind Ventura County Public Works

Using water is the most common way most of us interact with government. Every time we turn on a tap, we depend on government regulators to keep the water supply safe. We also rely on public bodies to maintain water pressure through an extensive underground infrastructure of pumps, pipes and storage facilities.

Likewise, whenever water flows into a sink, toilet or storm drain, we depend on public agencies to manage the drainage safely and efficiently.

Road use is another common interface between us and public works agencies. Planners, engineers, construction workers, inspectors and maintenance crews all pave the way for the roads we need for economic sustainability, emergency response and the movement of people and goods. The construction of roads requires massive resources and their maintenance avoids enormous waste.

The Ventura County Public Works Agency is spotlighting the workers behind these public works during National Public Works Week, May 16-21. Workers are featured in a series of videos explaining how they use the tools and equipment. Videos posted on the agency’s website will be played in hundreds of classrooms across the county as part of an American Public Works Association campaign drawing attention to the importance of public works in community life.

Ventura County videos include “A Day in the Life of a Lab Technician”. Shane Dass and Karla Gutierrez of the Water and Sanitation Department explain how they make the media, dispense them into tubes for fermentation, and perform tests to calculate the amounts of various chemicals and microbes in the samples of water.

Eric Dean, a lab technician, is shown in a tank collecting and testing water samples for chlorine, nitrogen and bacteria. Budding chemists will be especially interested to see how it adds a chemical reagent to samples and uses colorimetric detection to make determinations.

Another video, “A Day in the Life of a Water/Wastewater Worker,” explains the design, construction, and maintenance of water and sewer systems in the county. Joe Valdivia, the Service and Metering Supervisor, facilitates customer billing and leak detection by testing the accuracy of water meters.

Gary Nunez at a water reclamation facility says crews in a trench replace a section of pipe for reclaimed water. Chris Lewsadder, a sewage service worker, demonstrates pumping effluent from a septic tank to a lift station and a video camera to check for leaks in septic tanks.

Video from the Department of Roads and Transport shows its technicians inspecting the streets for wear and tear. They measure “alligator cracking, block cracking, distortions, long and trans cracking, utility cut patch and patch, rutting/depression, fraying and weathering”. An engineer develops a deterioration curve to assess pavement performance and create a multi-year pavement plan so the county board of supervisors can decide which roads to repair first.

Another video shows how crews remove vegetation and sediment to clean flood control channels and help water flow during a storm.

A video I helped create explains the reasons for the new food waste recycling programs. Many public works projects depend on private companies that contract with public agencies to provide services, while public works personnel deal with planning, management, public education, tracking and reporting.

Jeff Pratt, director of the agency, said county educators helped inform this year’s Public Works Week program, “so we can be sure that students, teachers and members of the community will find useful, educational and engaging content, as well as career opportunities.”

David Goldstein, environmental resources analyst with the Ventura County Public Works Agency, can be reached at [email protected] or (805) 658-4312

Sheena Kennedy, project manager at Consortium Media, contributed to this column. She does public relations for the Ventura County Public Works Agency.

Maria D. Ervin