Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Stormwater, our way

These men are Shannon, Joe, and Jim. They are the branch manager, regional safety & environmental coordinator, and regional manager of Pape Material Handling, a rental equipment business located in the Bakerview Spur Industrial area of Bellingham, Washington.

I contacted Pape Machinery because I'm researching the methods rental equipment business use to prevent sediment, oil, grease, and other pollutants from entering the stormwater system from their facilities. As part of this research, I contacted most of the rental equipment facilities in Skagit and Whatcom Counties, and this was the only place that invited me to view their facility.

While the heavy equipment wash rack you see in this picture is impressive, what really blew off my socks was a notebook in their office labeled "storm drains." The first page in the notebook was an aerial photo of their facility, with five storm drains and the location of their oil/water separator circled. In the next section of the notebook were records of storm drain filter maintenance. For the past two years, a company called Drakkar Industries has regularly serviced, cleaned, and weighed the storm drain filters and oil absorbent pillows in each storm drain. I was practically speechless while I was looking at this was, my dream come true.

Next, we looked at some of the storm drains, the oil/water separator, a collection covered of 55-gallon drums nearly labeled "hazardous waste," a labeled, waterproof enclosure for batteries, and the heavy equipment wash rack in the above photo. The wash rack is used 3-5 times a day, recirculates water, and has a water filtration system that is regularly serviced. A hazardous waste service company comes in once a month to remove solids from this wash rack, the solids get stored in the labeled 55-gallon drums, and get hauled off to an appropriate waste facility.

Customers that rent machines from here are charged a 2% cleaning fee. This is good. Why? It is much, much better to clean a big, dirty machine in this wash rack than to clean it where the water can reach ditches, streams, and other water bodies. As far as I know, the other equipment rental facilities charge an extra fee if the equipment is returned dirty. This encourages cleaning equipment in places without wash racks. Well, maybe all the other rental places have wash racks - one can always hope, at least.

I look at lots of stormwater. So far this year, this place gets the prize. We applaud the efforts these men are taking to keep our water clean. Thank-you, Pape Material Handling!

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