Thursday, December 8, 2011

What Do a Taxi Cab Fleet Owner, Organic Flour Mill Operator, and a Sheet Metal Worker Have in Common?

What does a crane mechanic, marine engine repair company, mobile home manufacturer, heavy machinery rental company worker, a sheet metal company owner, an orthodics manufacturer, the owner of a truck repair company, a taxi fleet owner, an organic flour mill operator, a farm supply store manager, a construction company owner, and a bus company manager all have in common?

You'll never guess - stormwater! How did these people meet? They met at a recent RE Sources workshop called "Best Management Practices to Prevent Stormwater Pollution From Your Business." We, the North Sound Baykeeper Team, just conducted four of these workshops in Whatcom and Skagit County. The attendees had never met, but were business neighbors in one of our local industrial areas. They learned that stormwater leaving their parking lots, roads, rooftops and outdoor storage areas ends up in nearby stormwater ditches and ponds, and why sediment, pH, metals, oil and grease cause water pollution. They also learned the name of the stream or river where their stormwater ends up, what kind of salmon and other fish live in the water, and what kind of condition the receiving water is in. But most importantly, they learned how to take steps to keep their stormwater runoff cleaner, and how some of their neighbors are taking extra steps to keep stormwater clean. Here are a few of the highlights:

This is the equipment wash station at Star Rentals, Ferndale, which is in the Silver Creek Watershed. In this photo, Jack Stahl, the manager of this business, explains that rental equipment is washed and serviced in a covered work area. All the wash water is collected and filtered in this oil/water separator, and sediment is regularly removed, before the water is pumped to the City of Ferndale’s Wastewater Treatment Facility. This is good for everybody, because if the water weren’t being treated, it might contribute to water quality problems in Silver Creek, which is already compromised.

This is the water recycling system at Pape Materials Handling, Bellingham, which is in the Baker Creek Watershed. In this photo, Jim Garberich, the Product Support Manager for this business, explains how the water used to wash large machinery is filtered in reused. A special bacteria is regularly added to the water to digest oil and grease, and the sediment is removed, and disposed of by a licensed hazardous waste hauler, or other appropriate method. Since the water is cleaned by the bacteria and reused, no connection to the wastewater treatment facility is needed. The extra steps Jim and his staff take help water quality in Baker Creek.

Last but not least is an equipment wash station at Interwest Construction Company, Burlington, which is in the Joe Leary Slough Watershed. Joe Leary Slough is likely the most polluted water in Skagit County, but there are a few of us who care about it very much, and are working to get it cleaned up. In this photo, Captain Happy (really!) explains what he does every Thursday to maintain this machinery wash station before the water is discharged to the City of Burlington Wastewater Treatment System. We love Captain Happy's work, because if he wasn't so good at his job, the water quality in Joe Leary Slough would be even worse.

We’ll be doing more of these workshops in 2012, and I hope to meet you at one of them. And because I can't stop myself (I'm obsessed with stormwater) I'll tell you the best part of this story. I overheard the owner of the truck repair company talking to the manager of a heavy machinery repair company. The truck guy was telling the heavy machinery guy that he was going to cover his dumpsters and store his waste barrels inside. The heavy machinery repair guy started talking about building a covered wash station. Then, the marine engine repair person told me that they would build a new building to cover their used engines and oily parts. Towards the end of one of these workshops I had a second to myself, and I was eating a pumpkin scone. That's when the taxi cab fleet owner interrupted my eavesdropping session. She told me she'd never heard about stormwater until today, but she was going to start doing things differently around her shop, because she was worried about the fish in Silver Creek. That made my day and convinced me that I have the best job in Bellingham. If we all do a few things differently, our water will be much cleaner. If you'd like to be on a mailing list for one of these workshops, I can be reached at Thanks for reading!

1 comment:

  1. Can't get better gifts than those comments can you? Take a Holiday bough (bow?) - whatever. You worked hard and earned it!