The Central Contra Costa Sanitary District (Central San) provides wastewater collection and cleaning, recycled water production and distribution, and household hazardous waste collection for nearly 500,000 residents and over 3,000 businesses in central Contra Costa County, California. Central San designed the Pipe Protectors Program to fill a void in wastewater education, as Kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd-grade programming simply didn’t exist. As more and more schools fully transition to the California Next Generation Science Standards, the need for high-quality science and engineering activities that engage all age groups would become critical.
As part of this effort, Central San wanted to create a program with accessible characters that young students could relate to easily. The district felt it was especially important that the characters be representative of the heterogeneous communities it serves. Piper, the female crew leader, was designed to be strong, independent, and reliable. Kelvin, the chemist, was designed to showcase his diligence, organization, and brilliance. Toot the Toilet, typically the most infamous of wastewater symbols, was designed to be friendly, curious, and relatable.
The Pipe Protectors Program, including all media and program materials, were created in-house by Central San’s Communications Team. This effort is part of a larger education update for all the district’s K-12 programs. The team felt it was particularly important to connect with the youngest students, so they started with the most formative years in order to build a better customer – a conscious customer. Central San’s broader educational goals are to help every Kindergarten through 12th-grade student become wastewater literate through a continuing focus, year after year, on what wastewater is, where it comes from, where it goes, and everything that happens to it along the way.
The Pipe Protectors Program has been successful in helping students understand wastewaters’ complex path from their homes back to local waterways. This is incredibly important as it helps Central San’s youngest customers support efforts towards pollution prevention and maintaining a reliable infrastructure. Pipe Protectors does all of this in a way that is accessible to students and empowers them to take action to help protect public health and the environment.
For this valuable program, the Central Contra Costa Sanitary District was recognized with a National Environmental Achievement Award in the Public Information & Education (Educational Program) category during NACWA's Winter Conference in February 2020. Congratulations to Central San and everyone involved!