Harborwins enviro award

Published on Thu, Dec 8, 2005 by eg Olson

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Harbor wins enviro award

By Meg Olson

Blaine Harbor has made it to the top of the county’s list of businesses that make protecting the environment a top priority, and get results.
For the second year the Port of Bellingham’s marina is one of only six businesses in the county to earn five EnviroStars through a program managed by the Disposal of Toxics program, and the only marina.

“There’s a lot going on there,” said program representative Alice Cord, rattling off the top of what she said is a very long list of measures Blaine Harbor staff take to not only keep hazardous waste out of the environment, but to become a leader in hazardous waste reduction and environmental protection in general.

Starting with everyday practices, Cord said the marina makes sure all of its tenants know of the best way to handle hazardous waste, and what services are available to them, including oil, antifreeze, fuel and filter dumps. “They are trying to promote themselves as a zero discharge harbor,” Cord said, which means port staff use the least hazardous cleaning and maintenance materials they can find, and encourage their customers to do the same. When something does go in the water Cord says Blaine Harbor has “made strides in the area of cleanup,” making a spill cleanup cart available to both staff and tenants.

Blaine harbormaster Pam Taft said marina tenants supported their tight rules for environmental protection. “Most people are environmentally conscious,” she said. “These are their cruising waters and they want to play a role in keeping them clean.”

Besides keeping their own backyard tidy, what Cord said earned Blaine Harbor the highest rating was that they take the lessons they’ve learned to other businesses and forums. “The five-star rating is all about leadership,” she said.

The top rating is also about innovation and a commitment to protecting the environment at all levels. For example, Cord said, in addition to paper reduction policies Blaine harbor also makes purchasing decisions based on buying something that will last. “Instead of throwing things away they fix them,” she said. “Even their flags, they repair.”

Taft said her team was making a statement to their community with their efforts to get and keep the five-star rating. “We want to show our sense of responsibility for our waterfront,” she said.

The five-star rating applies only to the harbor and not to other port properties along Marine Drive, but the port is also trying to clean up the industrial side.

One program the Port of Bellingham started last summer is a pilot project to keep bird feces out of Drayton Harbor. Cord described the planters positioned at the base of gutters on certain port properties around the harbor as “biofiltration units,” filtering bacteria-laden runoff from roofs covered with bird feces in an effort to diminish the load of coliform bacteria headed into the harbor. The bacteria are trapped in the soil and sand in the planters where they break down and get absorbed by the plant roots.

Former harbormaster and port project manager Alan Birdsall said tests have found the planters were tried as a way to make biofiltration work where they didn’t have space for a large planting.

“We’ve been able to get a 50 percent reduction in fecal coliform with them which is really good as they’re 90 percent undersized,” he said. Birdsall said the port was looking at ways to improve or expand the program.