The 2016-2017 wet season brought much needed rainfall to California. According to the National Centers for Environmental Information, the State received an average of 27.81 inches of precipitation during the 2017 rain season, which runs from October 1 to September 30. Reservoirs are full, vegetation is lush and the drought is officially over in most parts of the state. As summer approaches, the warmer weather combined with increased moisture creates the perfect environment for life to flourish. This can prove to be a hazardous environment for field personnel and environmental inspectors who work outdoors.
As we enter the summer months, the wet conditions created this past year provides excellent breeding grounds for mosquitos and other insects. Increases in algae provides food for mosquito larvae. An increase in vegetation provides cover and food for mice and other rodents. An increase in rodents provides food for snakes and other carnivores. The result of this ecological event is an increase in all species of life which has been evident in most parts of California this spring.
This increase in living organisms throughout the food chain presents increased hazards for those people recreating and working outdoors. Mosquitos, ticks, and other vectors present risk of Viral and Bacterial infection, including Lyme disease, Tularemia, Spotted Fever Illness, Zika and West Nile Virus. Storm drain inlets, outfalls, and manholes present additional risk, as the residual water from the heavy rainfall has created damp, dark areas resulting in increased spider habitat, including poisonous black widows. Furthermore, the growing vegetative cover along with increased rodent supply results in more snakes, including the ten different types of rattle snakes that inhabit California.
In addition to the biological hazards, field personnel should beware of the physical hazards that arise from periods of heavy rainfall and more recently, snowmelt runoff. Due to the powerful erosive properties of water, we are seeing the after effects of flooding and erosion, including landslides, potholes, and sinkholes. According to this report by The New York Times, a massive landslide in Big Sur resulted in a 1/4 of a mile of Highway 101 being covered in more than a million tons of soil and debris. Additionally, buildings that suffered leaks or low lying foundations that received water damage may have increase mold growth.
Business owners, field personnel and anyone who works outdoors should exercise increased awareness and take extra safety precautions this summer. Facilities covered under the Industrial General Permit (IGP) and Construction General Permit (CGP) should take additional steps to ensure outdoor inspection efforts are conducted safely. Municipal inspectors who are required to inspect canyons, streams, outfalls, or other heavily vegetated areas should ensure proper Personnel Protective Equipment (PPE) is utilized. Business owners and facility managers should ensure proper safety protocols are in place, including employee training, tailgate safety meetings and adequate PPE availability. If inspections require wading through tall grass or thick vegetation, snake guards should be worn. In addition, field staff should perform visual inspections of clothing and equipment for ticks and other insects. Long clothing and insect repellent are also recommended to protect against potential infections from insect bites. Facility managers should also inspect for evidence of erosive slopes, water damage, or mold growth in areas impacted by water damage that may result in larger issues down the road and be repaired as soon as practicable. Read more about water intrusion prevention HERE.
The dangers are real, and nature’s visitors should remain observant, but take the necessary pre-cautions to avoid injury or illness. While this year’s rainfall has produced exceptional habitat for all forms of life, and these hazards exist, it also presents wonderful opportunities to observe the thriving ecosystems firsthand.
Alta Environmental can provide safety training for your employees to reduce risks, ensure appropriate precautions, and increase awareness. You can avoid hazards by contracting Alta to perform full inspection services for compliance with both the industrial and construction general storm water permits (IGP and CGP). Alta can also assess your facility for mold and water damage.
For assistance or additional information contact us at (888) 608-3010 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Ross Pippen, CPESC, CISEC, QSP, QISP – Water Resource Scientist. Ross.Pippen@altaenviron.com