Pierce College Puyallup was recognized in 2015 as having demonstrated a substantial reduction in its overall energy use.
In a letter to the Chancellor, the Washington state Department of Enterprise Services commended the facilities staff for its hard work in delivering efficient and accountable facilities.
Some of the campus-wide improvements made at that time included automatic sensors on all toilets and sinks, low-flush mechanisms on all toilets and occupancy sensors for lighting in some classrooms and offices.
Despite the recognition, the Puyallup campus facilities and operations divisions seem to have failed in following it up with any efforts to further their environmental stewardship.
Part of that could be due to the fact that the departments have been without either a director or assistant director to make decisions or facilitate conversations regarding Pierce’s environmental impact since spring of 2018 .
Daniel Timmons, building and grounds manager for the Puyallup campus, feels that the result of being without such leadership results in a lot of people trying to fill in the gaps of knowledge needed to manage such a big operations system.
Several other factors contribute to the department’s inability to really move forward with a more aggressive pursuit of sustainability and environmentalism.
The metering systems in place that should help Timmons monitor energy and water consumption are complex. They require year-round management by technicians who are trained to work with them, which Pierce currently does not have on staff.
Part of the problem is that, as a public entity, Pierce cannot offer the competitive wages that journeymen level contractors are used to making in the private sector.
As a result, some of the functionality of the meters – ostensibly in place to help Pierce respond to high levels of water and energy output – is lost. For instance, it is currently unknown exactly how many gallons of wastewater the Puyallup campus produces annually.
One way Timmons and his crew do regulate water consumption is by monitoring irrigation practices. The sprinklers run in increments of five to ten minutes and only in zones that have been determined to absolutely need the water.
Another environmental impact that Timmons has tried to address in the past is the use of pesticides in landscaping.
He says that he tries to avoid using Round-Up, acknowledging known controversies over the use of the weed-killing product. However, one application wipes out weeds, while BurnOut, an organic weed-killer he once introduced, has to be reapplied every three days.
Timmons concedes that it would be nice for Pierce to be all-natural in its campus maintenance but also feels that the labor intensity of either hand-pulling weeds or reapplying organic compounds so frequently is not feasible for his small staff.
Timmons has been speaking with the campus president regarding opportunities for addressing the environmental issues brought about by current lack of staffing. Some of the proposed ideas include hiring more part-time staff, asking for volunteers from the student body and employing a work-study program using students from a local environmental studies program.
When asked about how quickly some of these changes may be brought about, Timmons hesitates.
“I think eliminating pesticides will be sooner rather than later. Monitoring and metering projects will take someone at the director level to champion that, every day, until it gets done.”
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