Why is the Sky Blue?
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Why is the Sky Blue?

Have you ever been asked that question? I have and was unable to give a suitable answer to a five year old. But, have you ever been asked why our lagoons in Foster City are blue? Well, I've got an answer for that. When Foster City was first built in the late 1960s and early 1970s, it was advertised as the City of Blue Lagoons! Well, I think the adjective, Blue, was just a marketing ploy to let buyers know that we did certainly have lagoons and what better way to describe lagoons but blue lagoons.

Although most waterways are naturally some version of a blue color, Foster City's blue lagoons do get some "help". It turns out that our lagoons are colored blue which helps to keep the algae and weeds from receiving light from the Sun. By limiting the amount of light, algae and weeds are discouraged from growing, which is good for our waterways. Yes, we do color our lagoons!

So, who puts the blue in our waterways? I got to thinking about that and learned that this activity is one of many tasks handled by the City's Public Works Department. Then I wondered what else does Public Works do? They are sort of like the people behind the scenes at the theater, you never see them but you do see their handiwork.

Let me give you a better explanation of how our Public Works Department affects our lives here in Foster City.

Recently, I visited our newest development, The Plaza Apartments over on Triton Drive. But before I drove over to the location I had to take a shower, eat breakfast, drink water to take my vitamins, put my garbage out on the curb and get in my car and drive through town to the event.

My hot steaming shower water was brought to my home, courtesy of the Water Distribution Division of our Public Works Department. They made sure that water was not only available, but clean and safe for me to use for both bathing and for drinking. There are so many places in this world where safe drinking water is an unavailable luxury, but that is not the case here. I hope we always appreciate the water that flows from our pipes. Public Works staff tests the water routinely to ensure that it stays safe.

That same shower water that was safely brought to my home was carried away courtesy of the Sanitary Sewer Division of our Public Works Department. They make sure that all of our used water is carried away safely and efficiently to the San Mateo Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Public Works also made it easy for me to get rid of my trash and recyclables by managing the contract with Recology. It's Public Works that made sure we could throw all of our recyclables in ONE bin on a weekly basis, rather than having to sort through our garbage every other week. They've also made it possible for us to recycle our food waste with our yard trimmings rather than having to throw it in the garbage.

My drive to the Plaza was safe and easy because I obeyed all the traffic signals that are maintained by Public Works. (They maintain the street lights, too!) As a taxpayer, I am grateful that they have kept up with technology and the street lights and traffic signals use as little energy as possible. Speaking of street lights the Public Works Department recently oversaw a sustainability project that replaced all the City owned street lights with energy efficient LED lights. When traffic signals run 24-hours a day, every day, the efficiency becomes very important! Pavement maintenance is also Public Works responsibility. Did you know that our street surfaces are rated as one of the best in the Bay Area?

Finally, Public Works engineering staff has made sure that there will be enough water and sewer capacity for the new residents of the Plaza Apartments as well as the rest of our City. They are also working on widening the streets so that traffic won't get snarled up due to additional traffic generated from the new buildings.

As you can see our Public Works people are really involved in many of our day to day activities. Unfortunately, most of the time they get noticed only when something goes wrong and for example, an emergency repair is needed.

When I talked to him about it, Public Works Director Brad Underwood said that it's always good when Public Works is not noticed. It is similar to my work as a little league baseball umpire. I like to leave the field after the game and not have any comments made to me. When no one says anything then I know my crew and I did a good job managing the game.

However, I need to give some "props" to the people at Public Works, my unsung heroes who make my life, and yours as well, safe, convenient and lacking in drama. They love their jobs and they love Foster City. They want to do the best job they are capable of doing so that we are able to flush our toilets and drive safely around town. So the next time you look at the beauty of our lagoons and waterways I hope you'll remember the folks at Public Works.

Thanks, Public Works, where would we be without you?

Please contact me at sokamoto@fostercity.org if you have any questions or comments. I look forward to hearing from you.

Council Corner

June 26, 2013
Why is the Sky Blue?

City Hall - 610 Foster City Blvd.
Foster City, CA 94404
(650) 286-3200