Sunday, May 13, 2012

Sanitary Service Company is a Stormwater Hero!

What exactly is a stormwater hero?  It is a business, government, or person(s) who go above and beyond what is required to prevent stormwater pollution.  Sanitary Service Company (SSC) has joined the ranks of the dozen plus stormwater heroes in Whatcom and Skagit County.

SSC is a waste hauler and recycler in Bellingham, Washington.  They recently installed a two-stage stormwater treatment system at their 4-acre waterfront facility, and paved the entire site.   Paving was expensive and problematic because like many areas along the Bellingham waterfront, their site is located on fill, some of which is solid waste from over 50 years ago.  Now, all their stormwater is collected into pipes and routed into an underground vault, featured above.  Inside the underground vault are a series of chambers that facilitate removal of heavy solids, and allow oil and grease to float, so they can be removed.  Then, stormwater is pumped into the aboveground treatment unit featured below.  Once inside this unit, stormwater is filtered through a media made of crushed oyster shells, sand, and other absorptive materials.  This media treats and filters out sediment, particulates, and dissolved metals.

SSC is covered under the Washington State Department of Ecology’s Stormwater General Permit.  Before this system was installed, it was difficult for SSC to meet the allowable discharge levels for turbidity and metals.  That’s not hard to imagine, as over 100 garbage trucks roll in and out of this facility every day.   Heavy trucks are known sources of copper and zinc, usually coming from brake pads and tires.  And in driving long routes through Whatcom County, trucks pick up dirt and sediment. “This new treatment system has considerably lowered the levels of metals and fine sediment,” said Rodd Pemble, the recycling Manager for SSC.  It’s easy for them to meet the allowable discharge levels now.

Last week, SSC invited the public to view this new system.  We love these tours, as everyone learns about ways to manage stormwater, and gets to see best management practices in action.  On the tour, one SSC employee was busy washing garbage cans in one area of their facility (below).  We learned that this water is called industrial process water, and it is not routed to the new stormwater system.  Instead, it is collected in a separate underground vault containing an oil-water separator, and routed to the City of Bellingham’s wastewater treatment plant, where it is treated.

Do you want to become a stormwater hero?  It’s easy!  Just make sure you’re not polluting our water.  Want some ideas about how to run a cleaner facility?  If we can help you, we will, and if we can't, we'll get you in touch with someone who will help you. 

Thank-you, SSC!  We applaud the steps you’ve taken for clean water.  Thanks for reading!


  1. That's being preventative at its finest! Being able to being able to lessen or prevent further pollution on your own means a lot to the environment. Indeed, everyone can be a stormwater hero in their own right and ways. :)

    [Monica Barnes]

  2. Everybody can become a hero! You don’t need to do big things or risk your life for you to be considered a hero. A simple act of finding ways and exerting effort to preserve and conserve water could already be considered a heroic act! Start now and help make a big difference.

    -Sharon Strock