Regretfully, I don’t know what Captain Happy’s real name is, so I’ll name him Steve.
Steve cleans heavy machinery for Interwest Construction, a construction company in Burlington, Washington. Interwest Construction (ICI) is an excavation and site development company, which also builds highways, installs underground utilities, cleans up hazardous waste sites, and other large projects using enormous machinery. This is not a small potatoes kind of outfit. According to the owner of Interwest Construction, Eban, Steve’s only job is to clean this heavy equipment wash station every Thursday. I doubt this is true, because when Eban told us this, everyone started laughing.
Last week, at a free stormwater workshop that’s part of an ongoing series called “Stormwater University,” we viewed this heavy equipment wash station. Our group included business owners and employees of the businesses in one of the industrial areas near Burlington. Steve explained how it works: the machinery is pressure washed inside this covered shed. The dirt, grease, and oil flows into the horizontal strip drain inside the shed. The dirt, or sediment, builds up in the strip drain, where it can be easily shoveled out. Turbid water, grease, and oil, flows through an oil water separator (the middle section below the round holes). Oil and grease floats, adheres onto oil absorbent media, and removed. The water flows through a baffle system, and then into a series of coalescing plates (under the rectangular cover) where even more grease and oil is absorbed onto the plates. Steve cleans these plates every week, and removes all the captured sediment from the whole system. Once the wash water flows through this entire system, it is pumped to the City of Burlington’s waste water treatment plant, treated, and discharged into the Skagit River.
This system costs extra time and money, but it is the best way to prevent stormwater pollution. If these steps weren’t being taken, there’s a good chance that the dirty water would end up in Joe Leary Slough, a freshwater stream that flows into Puget Sound. We really appreciate the extra steps that the staff at ICI are taking…thanks, Captain Happy!