The Fire Chief Project: When Life Gives You Lemons...

A California sanitary district scores public education points with a booth in a local festival

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When it comes to keeping its publics informed, the Goleta (Calif.) Sanitary District doesn’t stand still. Its staff each year grabs an opportunity to meet people by helping sponsor and organizing a booth at the California Lemon Festival, held in Goleta in October.

The booth offers displays and interactive games, according to an article in an E-Bulletin from the California Water Environment Association. For example, staff members led a  “Down the Drain” in which people toss lemons down pipes representing wastewater, drinking water and reclaimed water. They won giveaways displaying district contact information “in case any concerned citizens witness anything fishy or shady around district manholes,” the CWEA publication reported.

Through the years, the staff has researched sustainable wastewater practices, designed new games, and avoided plastic giveaways. One popular display highlighted Wastewater Sustainability: Past, Present and Future. Among much else, it highlighted wastewater treatment as the most important medical advance of the past 150 years (as designated by the British Medical Journal), displayed information about a treatment plant upgrade, and shared innovative technologies in treating wastewater and managing biosolids.

A “spinning wheel” game included a wheel with sections number 1-16 with corresponding questions on sustainable practices, wastewater treatment, environmental protection, and treatment innovations. Players would spin the wheel, answer the question, and have their name written on a reusable card. A drawing for a prize was then held 15 minutes for a stainless steel water bottle. In two days, the game drew 619 players.

Engaging the public with hands-on educational activities is a great way to advance the aims of The Fire Chief Project:
· Raise clean-water operators to the status of the fire chief.
· Make kids grow up wanting to be wastewater operators.



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