Final Internship Report
My city internship consisted of working with Fatty oil and grease (FOG) data to try and develop educational information for the community. My job was to create a FOG website for the city that included information about FOGs for the general public. Fatty oil and grease being deposited in the city waste system is currently the city’s number one liability. Recent decisions to no longer accept FOGs at the city sewer plant means that Walla Walla is forced to create an alternative for FOG disposal. Restaurants release FOGs into the waste water system from deep fry greasers and often are ignorant in how to correctly dispose of the icky waste. In my website I discussed how to properly dispose of FOGs and the detrimental effects their current efforts create. I researched FOGs to make my own worksheet that businesses can look online to double check that they are dealing with FOGs properly.
My internship was entirely independent study. I met with the city a couple of times to review about FOG information and to show them what I had in mind for the website. All of my FOG research was done on my own, besides Frank sending me occasional e-mails with updated information. I knew nothing about fatty oil and grease before I started the project, but learned a lot from calling cities with FOG programs and finding information on the web.
Most of my time working on this project involved being by a computer or phone. I had to call and confirm that the city could use a FOG booklet to distribute to businesses without copyright infringements, but spent most of my time researching in the library. I felt that I couldn’t really be creative with this project because it seemed more professional to have my FOG page mirror the city website. I understand that websites should have continuity and thought it would look funny if the wastewater site was all one design and then the FOG page looked completely different. I had to integrate my information into the city pages already created so everything would flow. One of the problems with this step was that in the middle of the project the city updated and changed their whole site. The graphics, colors and outline of the website changed because it was no longer under the direct control of the city and instead managed by an outside company. I had to start over again on the pages and gave up any ideas of including a flash movie or making new graphics for my pages. This created problems for my project because while my FOG page needed to be integrated into the city website, they were no longer controlling the design. Before I leave I have to talk to Frank to see if the page can even be moved off of my Marcus account.
The page integration is an example of how I felt that the internship was created to find something for me to do instead of fulfilling a need. I heard from a city intern last semester that the internships were created more as a favor to Whitman students than to fill project needs. I felt this way from the beginning of my internship. When I first met with Frank about FOGs the city had just decided that they had to approach the problem from a new angle.
Even with the quick outward growth of fast food chains they had not expected the FOG buildup problem and were now facing the planning consequences. They didn’t know very much about how they were going to solve the problem of grease backup.
FOGs are also not that interesting. While I feel I learned a lot about how cities have to deal with liability issues and waste water problems I thought I signed up for an internship that focused on water quality and GIS. I had an internship in high school that involved water quality in a rural setting so originally I was excited to see how water quality issues in a rural area were different than in a more urban environment. I really wanted to see how the city organized information, especially for GIS purposes. While it was nice to move beyond working in a small community and dealing with different problems I felt that the internship was not beneficial to the city. Since I had a previous internship experience my expectations were different and I thought that the city would actually have something for me to do. It seemed since they were just starting to focus on FOGs this meant that as I was learning my goals were changing as theirs developed. I felt like what they wanted was continuously shifting and their goal was just to help me end up with a pretty project.
I compare the city experience with my previous work with water quality and GIS. In Forks I was involved with city members, the school district and scientists to discuss water quality issues and work on monitoring. Participating in that internship I felt like I was utilizing my computer skills, working on communicating with different types of people, teaching students, taking my own test samples and developing presentation skills while synthesizing the data and analyzing information for different audiences. With the city of Walla Walla it seemed I was studying what other people had already done and spitting out their results.
Learning about FOGs was beneficial because I did want to focus on problems in areas more urban than Forks. I never realized that oil and grease backup would be a problem within a city and I will never look at french fries the same way. It was neat to learn about an environmental problem that I never would have imagined. The experience taught me the importance of educating employees and businesses about issues that affect whole communities. The FOG problems could easily be remedied if all businesses cooperated. I was also surprised to learn that this was another side-affect of expansion, especially fast-food expansion. Overall my internship was an informative experience. I met my goal of learning about water type issues in an urban environment and learned more about how the city sorts and stores information, mostly by paper and not through GIS for wastewater problems.
I would recommend city internships only to students who are extremely self-motivated
and interested in how the city transfers information, works on projects and
of course city politics. They would have to be flexible and realize that their
goals and expectations would have to change. Frank Nicholson was very easy going
and great to work with, but does not have a lot of time to devote to interns.