The Fire Chief Project: Want a voice in your local media? Here’s a way to get it.

A New York operator garners a column series in the local paper

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Doug Sibolski wasn’t about to let misconceptions stand about water quality in his community and the effect of his treatment plant on it. Sibolski, superintendent and chief operator of the City of Lockport (N.Y.) Wastewater Treatment Plant and Compost Facility, is writing a series of columns in the Lockport Union-Sun & Journal to help readers understand what he and his team members do.

The columns give him a platform to explain what wastewater treatment is all about and that his plant improves – and does not degrade – local water resources. It’s a great way to advance the two main aims of the Fire Chief Project:

  • Raise clean-water operators to the stature of the fire chief.
  • Make kids grow up wanting to be clean-water operators.

In his first column, published June 23, he acknowledged recent concerns in the community about water quality and safety of the waterways and welcomed a public conversation about it.

“As formally educated and licensed operators, laboratory technicians and environmentalists,” he wrote, “we do a large part in protecting the receiving stream (Eighteenmile Creek) but by no means are we the only caretakers; we all are.”

He described the rating system for waterways used by the state Department of Environmental Conservation (A to D, from best to poorest), noted the D rating for the creek, and emphasized that the treatment plant is not responsible for the rating.

“The D rating is attributed to years of industrial use of chemicals and toxic compounds that were released into the creek and are found today in the sediment within and along its banks,” he wrote. “The D rating is from a 150-year history of industry and misuse before the 1972 Clean Water Act was passed by Congress...The treatment plant and a majority of the money to build it is a direct result of the Clean Water Act.”

He observed that the treatment plant meets all permit requirements and performs far better than state water quality standards require. He also noted the challenge of dealing with the city’s combined sanitary/storm sewer system. In future columns he will write about that collection system and describe how the treatment plant cleans the water.

If you want to look for Sibolski’s columns as an example of what you might be able to do for your local newspaper, visit

Feel free to share things you have done through your local news media to help educate your public – and advance the aims of The Fire Chief Project. Send me a note to



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