Out of Sight. Out of Mind.

Ever walk by a piece of litter and tell yourself, "That’s not my trash, not my problem?" It is the same thought pattern when it comes to stormwater pollution. Only it is worse.

stenciling volunteerBecause stormwater pollution goes underground, there is a perception that the problem goes somewhere else. That stormwater doesn’t get treated. It doesn’t get filtered. It doesn’t magically get better. The pollution goes straight into our oceans, our rivers, our lakes, and our ground water.

Of course, that is someone else’s problem. We can see this train of thought in practice everyday.

  • Watching a state convention center employee saying that the hydraulic leak under a forklift as well as the goo coming from the trash collection bins are someone else’s problem while watching the pollution leak into the stormwater drain.

  • Hearing about a German printed circuit board facility dumping 2,000 gallons of cupric chloride into the storm sewer because they did not want to pay to have their toxics handled offsite. They actually had the treatment process and capacity to adequately treat this solution at their wastewater recovery facility.

  • Watching city park employees replace a rusting galvanized dock ladder with another new galvanized ladder. “We got over 50 years use out of this one.” The city spent significant resources upgrading the shoreline for a better salmon habitat just around the corner… "We are only here to replace the ladder. Stormwater pollution is another department’s problem."

  • Watching rainfall push an oil slick from leaking drums on an open parking lot and toward a catch basin while the employee is sweeping in a different area of the same parking lot.

beach cleanupThere is a growing conscience about stormwater pollution, but it needs everyone to participate. It starts with you and me.

Here is one of my easy solutions. The next time you are on a beach vacation, bring along a heavy-duty trash bag. While walking on the beach, just start picking up the plastic, metal, and glass debris. The locals you pass will wave and smile at you. Other people will collect stuff and ask if they can deposit in your bag. Give the collected trash to a beach hotel staff and watch them look at you in awe. You will be considered an honored guest of that area’s beach culture.

Read this related story about Coastal Cleanup Day in San Diego County.

Discussion: The Blue Filter Gabions are filling an important niche in the industrial stormwater market.

The regulators, the non-profits, the technical community, and the industrial end users all want stormwater compliance to be green, cost effective, simple to maintain, and dependable for maintaining compliance.  However until now, there was no effective way of using local, organic filter materials within a simple filter housing that can be expanded and/or configured easily to meet that particular site’s requirements. The Blue Filter Gabions are much like a Lego construct.  With their multiple internal compartments, the consultant and end user can decide which local filter media will do best for their specific application.  Typically compost is used as clarification, removing out the bulk contaminates.  Then a polishing filter media, such as biochar or vulcanized peat moss, will polish filter any residuals.  One of the many nice designs of the Blue Filter Gabion is that whatever potential of having metal leakage from the compost will be completely addressed by the polishing media prior to discharge. Twice yearly, one will need to open up the gabions and top off the filter medias with new local organics.  Or schedule a vac truck to pull whichever media compartment and rebed entirely.  Typically the used filter media will pass the toxics testing and be allowed for use as landscape materials. The first user after the beta sites at Blue Heron Paper Mill is a large electronics manufacturer located in the Portland Metro area.  Its nationally known environmental consultant made the recommendation to place a Blue Filter Gabion into an existing water quality control vault (4’x 4’ x 5’ tall) as a pilot test to see what the capability of this technology is.  Waiting for the next rain event for sampling…