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City awarded for environmental safety training program

Employees, partners receive discounted training; City gets workers for collection events

YUMA, Ariz. - The City of Yuma received an award from the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) for establishing a training program that includes both City employees and community partners in the handling of hazardous waste.

 The City’s HAZWOPER program – which stands for hazardous waste operation and emergency response – trains City employees, federal, state, county and neighboring municipal employees, and private industry partners on how to handle, process, store, and dispose of hazardous waste. Once the students receive their classroom training they participate in one of the City’s four annual Household Hazardous Waste events to receive their hands-on training.

 While the City has been providing HAZWOPER training for five years, this is the third year of combining the training with the City’s Public Works department. The partnership has been mutually beneficial to local workers seeking professional certification and the City: Those being trained obtain certification, and their hands-on training provides labor for the Household Hazardous Waste events. Additionally, those already certified need to complete eight hours of refreshment training each year to recertify, and many of those workers choose to work at the Household Hazardous Waste events to fulfill that requirement.

The partnership caught the attention of ADEQ and its Voluntary Environmental Stewardship Program (VESP). ADEQ Ombudsman Ian Bingham arrived from Phoenix to personally present a VESP award during the City’s Household Hazardous Waste collection event on Saturday.

 The City hosts the training, which is conducted by multiple agencies, yearly in April. Class sizes are limited to about 45 participants, with about half made up of City employees. “Once we fill those spots, we open up the training to our network partners,” said City of Yuma Environmental Program Coordinator Manny Hernandez. Participants could come from Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Yuma Proving Ground, Yuma County, locally based federal and state agencies, local municipalities located within the county, and private industry partners.

Instructors from up to 15 different agencies provide the training. Topics include medical surveillance, determining whether or not a material in question is hazardous, safety compliance on toxic or reactive materials, and training on a federal emergency response guide, which is used by public safety agencies to assess spills and releases of potentially hazardous materials.

The City hosts this training free of charge.

“If you were to take this class on a computer, it would cost somewhere around $450. To take the course with the hands-on training, you might have to go to San Diego, where it’s a $1,500 course,” Hernandez said.

ADEQ’s VESP identifies and rewards organizations that have a good history of compliance and try to go above and beyond legal requirements. “ADEQ strives to complement existing programs with new tools and strategies that not only protect people and the environment, but also recognize opportunities for reducing cost and encouraging technological innovation,” according to their website.

In addition to the recognition the City received Saturday, membership in VESP includes other added benefits, such as reduced inspection frequency, conferences, early notice of enforcement rulings, advance inspection notice, reduced reporting requirements, and coordination of multiple on-site inspections.