Williamsburg public works conservation efforts recognized

Contact Reporterwwright@vagazette.com

State officials have recognized members of the Williamsburg Public Works Department for their commitment to minimizing their effects on the environment.

The Virginia Environmental Excellence Program, in conjunction with the state’s Department of Environmental Quality, awards public works department around the state according to efforts to manage their environmental footprints. Williamsburg’s Public Works department has the highest honor, called an E4, which it first won in 2008.

Other organizations have an E2 or E3 distinction, which signals their progress in creating an environmental management system. Among the state’s other E4 members are Newport News Shipbuilding and Joint Base Langley-Eustis.

Within the city’s Public Works department, there is a Environmental Management Team that has markedly increased the amount of recycled materials in the city. “We’ve reduced the amount of trash so much, we now have a smaller dumpster at the complex,” said service worker Lucas Jenne.

Each year, the department sends a report to the state detailing its programs. Public Works director Dan Clayton said staff go above and beyond partly because of a sense of service to the city.

“This team is committed to environmental excellence, not because of recognition, but because it’s the right thing to do,” Clayton said. “They not only maintain established environmental protocols, they find new and innovative ways to reduce the city’s environmental footprint. But that’s not all they do. In order to meet the VEEP requirements, the team must also document the work that was done and submit an annual report to DEQ. Can it be time consuming? Yes. Is it worthwhile? Definitely.”

Some old-fashioned ingenuity has helped the department maximize its efforts.

“The accepted method to drain oil from an oil filter is to drill three holes in it and drain it,” said Mike Lesniak, a vehicle maintenance supervisor. “We have found that crushing the filters actually gets out more oil, which means disposing a cleaner oil filter.”

City manager Marvin Collins tied conservation and recycling to the city and its financial position. One helps the other, he said, while helping residents.

“All too often citizens don’t see what goes on behind the scenes to provide quality service to the community,” he said. “There are real cost savings to the taxpayer when this team recycles scrap metal, vehicle fluids, tires and leaves. In addition, these employees become some of the best ambassadors for environmental stewardship in the community.”

Wright can be reached by phone at 757-345-2343.

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