Use MS4 Certification Requirements to Drive Education

By Thomas Schneider, CPESC

In this series, we have discussed the three groups that a Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) needs to educate to have a successful stormwater compliance program —citizens, MS4 employees and the regulated community. Previous articles touched on different strategies needed to accomplish this—public education, focused in-house training and outreach and education. This article looks at the regulated community group and how the MS4 can create an education and outreach program with very little expenditure of MS4 resources.

Requiring a certification or license drives education. When a city, county or state (MS4) requires an electrician to be licensed or certified, the electrical contractor or individual seeks out the education to obtain the knowledge necessary to achieve the certification or license. When a certification is required there are many companies and organizations that will provide the education needed to obtain the certification or license. All the MS4 needs to do is require the certification and the education will be obtained with no out-of-pocket cost to the MS4.

It sounds simple, but there is a catch The more time and effort an MS4 expends to determine their needs and identify which certification(s) meet those needs, the better their results will be. There are many certifications available to select from. The MS4 that researches and selects the certification(s) that best fit their needs will realize some amazing results.

Let’s look at certificates, diplomas and certifications. A certificate usually indicates an individual attended a class. A diploma says an individual completed a curriculum with a satisfactory level of knowledge. A certification provides proof that the individual possesses a level of knowledge to be proficient in that discipline. In the legal profession for example, a law student receives a diploma from their law school but the state bar certifies that they possess enough knowledge to practice law.

To make a certification requirement work for the MS4, the MS4 must weed out the certifications that do not fit the MS4’s requirements. The MS4 should be inclusive, not exclusive, when setting up certification requirements. After identifying needs based on the MS4’s specific area and unique requirements, the MS4 can then develop the requirements for the certification. It is a mistake for an MS4 in one state to accept a certification based on another state’s regulations. A certification should address the MS4’s needs or most of the needs. However, the MS4 needs to make sure that a certification does not test for knowledge that conflicts with its requirements. When this happens the individual will need to be retrained on what the MS4 requires.

As in all industries, there are many certifications, with each having different knowledge requirements to pass the exam and be certified. There are some certifications that require a 4-hour online course with a simple test at the end of the educational session that results in the individual obtaining a certification. There are others that require a number of years working in the industry as well as passing a test to achieve the certification, and there are many types of certification requirements in between the two identified.

The upfront effort to select the best certification directly influences the education that is provided and the effectiveness of the certification requirement. If the exam is testing for rudimentary knowledge, the MS4 will achieve a regulated community with a rudimentary level of knowledge. Depending on the MS4, the certification requirement can be applied to all areas in stormwater construction, post-construction and multi-sector industrial sites.

Certifications can be a powerful tool in your MS4 stormwater management program. Certifications can save the MS4 money and get the regulated community on the same page as the MS4 in a short period of time when utilized correctly. Remember, this is not a new theory. Certifications and licenses have been proven to be effective in other departments within the MS4. For these reasons alone, an MS4 should give serious consideration to adding a certification requirement to the program.  

About the Expert

Thomas Schneider, CPESC, is vice president at Stormcon, LLC. He has 28 years of experience and extensive training in storm water regulations focusing on construction site erosion and sediment control. He works directly with local, state and federal agencies as well as working one-on-one with clients to develop and implement storm water programs that will fit their needs.

[Editor’s Note: While the MS4 permitting program is a United States-based program designed to control water pollution, strategies used to meet permit requirements can be applied to storm sewer systems in any location to support clean water efforts.]