Toolik Users Forum
June 23, 2004
Mike Abels and Donie Bret-Harte represented the IAB Toolik management team, Facility supervisor Richard Flanders attended. Donie Bret-Harte recorded these notes, in consultation with others who attended the meeting.
Users commented that, in general, camp is running smoothly so far this year. Chris Crockett commented that Rich, Scott, Kevin, and Trevor have been very helpful with the docks, boat motors, and other issues, and that having a dedicated science support maintenance person is working very well. Anne Giblin noted that the shipping of packages is going better this year than last year. Most packages are arriving before the scientists do, and tracking is better. Mike Abels commented that the person who is doing most of the computer entry for package tracking in Fairbanks this season is doing a better job than the person who did it last year. Rich Flanders noted that there are a number of packages that are not labeled well enough to determine who they are for; these are in the tent next to the shipping and receiving tent, so anyone who is missing a package should check there. Rich also mentioned that users should save their packaging for chemicals that they plan to store over the winter in Fairbanks, as they cannot be shipped without HAZMAT packaging. More information on how to ship chemicals for winter storage would be appreciated before the end of the season.
Gus Shaver mentioned that the LTER Coordinating Committee will be coming in August, and will need lecture space for 50. Two possibilities are to use the new daycare center, or the shipping/receiving tent. Rich and Donie suggested that the daycare center might be used for lectures and classes instead of the meeting trailer, when no children are in camp. The meeting trailer could then be used full-time for recreation, except for the GIS office. This has the advantage of keeping the recreation area and sleeping areas apart, and the daycare center is a better shape for lectures, as it is not so long and narrow as the meeting trailer. Mike Abels agreed to provide padded folding chairs for use in the daycare center and/or shipping/tent (for the LTER Coordinating Committee visit).
Chris Crockett commented that the new snorkel hood in the wet lab is working well for running chlorophyll determinations. There seems to be enough make-up air; he will let IAB know if it needs adjustment.
Craig Woolard of UAA was visiting camp to bring the new micro/nanofiltration water treatment plant on-line for tests. When it becomes fully operational, the camp will have state of the art drinking water, and will not have to ship up RO water from Fairbanks, as the treated water will be good enough for lab use after being run through the Barnsted filters that are already here (it will not clog them up). Users were excited to hear this. Craig will give a seminar on the new water system when he returns in July.
Craig also commented on the perennially smelly outhouses, as Mike had discussed this with him. Craig pointed out that since the highest vent location in the outhouses is the seats, it is unlikely that any fan arrangement will work to keep them from smelling. Mike wondered whether IAB management should put time and effort into coming up with a new design, one that would perhaps use a very low-flow, water-based system. Scott Houghton commented that the outhouses heat up in the sun, and this causes more convection. Perhaps insulating them would reduce convection and the odor. Rich has some ideas for new fans that might also help. Gus Shaver commented that if the outhouse odor is all that people have to complain about, the camp is being managed well. The question of whether to devise a new outhouse design is still open; if you have comments, please email Mike Abels.
Much discussion centered on laboratory safety and disposal of HAZMAT items. Now that Josh Pobrislo has left IAB, the EMT/Safety officer does not have a lot of experience in HAZMAT issues. Mike is hoping to make the guidelines for dealing with HAZMAT as simple and transparent as possible. Bill Krause from UAF Environmental Health and Safety will make at least two trips per season to inspect the laboratories and bring HAZMAT items to Fairbanks for disposal. HAZMAT items waiting for disposal should be placed in the storage locker (former Pluckery trailer) to the north of the shipping/receiving tent. Guidelines will be posted in the locker as to how items should be stored, including a list of 4 (or so) common categories, and who to contact if your item does not fall into one of those categories. Bill Krause will handle neutralizing acids for us prior to transport. Chris Crockett commented that additional containers for disposal are needed; Mike said that they have been ordered. While laboratory safety training is ultimately the responsibility of the employer, Ian Washburne will handle safety training for users of the wet lab by showing a video and running a short orientation most Fridays. Molly Marvel (IAB EMT) will coordinate with Ian and Chris to show the video and provide general lab training for other users. There was additional discussion of what items can and cannot be put down the lab sinks. A number of people have said that they were confused, and that signs over each sink would helpful. Mike is going to work on a policy after consulting with Bill Krause, and Molly will post signs over every laboratory sink. (Signs were posted by the time these notes were written.) Chris Crockett pointed out that the wet lab, where most chemistry is done, has a much smaller tank, which is not connected to the general-use sink than all the other labs. Over the longer term, the wet lab needs to get a larger wastewater tank connected to the general use sink.
Chris Crockett requested that either a boardwalk be built to the boat dock, or other options explored, to reduce erosion and make it easier to transport heavy items to the boats. Rich will work with VPR to get a boardwalk in progress. Boat users and their PIs would like to provide input to the final plan, before it is executed.
A number of users could not attend the User Forum because they had already left camp, but they sent comments to be discussed and included with the notes. Jim Laundre requested that a list of common HAZMAT items and instructions for dealing with them be posted, and that instructions for what can be disposed of down the lab sinks be posted over each sink. These comments are dealt with above. He also commented that, in his view, the proposed design for the new washhouse contains too many sinks. It seems that the women use more sinks under the current arrangement than the men do. Other users commented that overall camp seems to be running very smoothly this year, but pointed out a few areas that need improvement. The toilets in the new dorm need to be cleaned more often, at least once a week. Users in the new dorm seem to be taking a lot of showers, and need to be told in their orientation not to shower every day unless absolutely necessary, and to turn off the shower (using the button on the shower head) when soaping up. It was suggested that an updated staff picture board with the jobs of the staff clearly-labeled would be helpful, so that people can identify staff members. The name of the current Scientific Liaison is posted in the communications room and announced at seminars, but evidently some people have not seen it. Finally, some information on where cleaning supplies (brooms, dustpans, vacuums, etc.) that are accessible to users are located needs to be either posted or mentioned in the orientation. It could also be included in “Your Stay at Toolik.”
Mike commented that users need to make an effort to ensure that no trash is included in the aluminum recycling bins, or the recycling company will throw out the contents of the bin. Rich commented aluminum can crushers are available for the lab trailers if desired. Chris requested one for the wet lab, and received it the next day. Rich also suggested that a lab contact be designated in each lab, who would help to orient new users of the lab as personnel change. Finally, he pointed out that it is the responsibility of scientific personnel to clean out the lab refrigerators of all samples, chemicals, etc. at the end of the season. Some labs do well, but in others people have left the refrigerators full when they left, which is a problem for the camp staff.
Finally, Scott Houghton commented that there currently is no private place to make a phone call, especially if you don’t have your own office or private area in the labs. A centrally-located phone booth (or closet) would be very helpful.
Subsequent to the User Forum, John Hobbie commented that eye protection and hearing protection were not evident in the shipping/receiving/shop tent, and that a safety orientation for tool use by scientists should be required before turning them loose with the power tools. This could perhaps be a duty of the scientific support maintenance person.
George Kling commented that the most pressing issues for early season (May) users are 1) the need for overwinter storage, so that the labs are not packed full of other people’s gear and unavailable for use, and 2) the need for access to shower and laundry facilities before the regular washhouse is connected. Additional Conexes with shelves and fluorescent lighting would solve the overwinter storage problem; it would be ideal if they could be installed before the end of this season. (One overwinter science CONEX box was in the final stage of setup by Lab 3 during this meeting)
The next User Forum will occur in mid-July, when Brian Barnes and Mike Abels are in camp.