Opinion

'In 2010, keep pollutants out of our runoff' | Forecasts for 2010

By BRIAN RADER

Since the San Juan County Pollution Prevention Program began in January 2008, I have met with more than 170 San Juan County business owners and managers to talk about how they work with and dispose of hazardous waste and other potentially harmful materials.

These visits are designed to help businesses navigate the complex network of environmental rules and regulations, and develop cost-effective, common-sense solutions to improve their effectiveness at protecting the health of people and the environment.

As we usher in a new year, it is a good time to reflect on lessons learned, and look forward to 2010 with new ideas and a fresh perspective.

One of the most enduring lessons I have learned during the first two years of this program is how very conscientious most folks are regarding pollution here on the islands. People want to do the right thing. The challenge is in understanding the options available and selecting an action that achieves the goals of keeping pollutants out of surface and groundwater, while maintaining a healthy appreciation for the critical role that the businesses within our community play.

Let’s face it, if we all want to continue to live in and enjoy this wonderful place, we need a healthy economy and a healthy environment.

With the New Year come new challenges and new opportunities. Recent sampling of stormwater outfalls in our urban population centers indicates some concerns. Soaps and detergents, automobile-related pollutants, and pesticides have all been detected in our runoff water.

An excellent goal for all of us in the coming year is to find ways to keep these pollutants out of our runoff. We do not want to go down the costly path of trying to find a way to treat large quantities of stormwater prior to discharge. It is much more cost-effective to keep these pollutants out of the water by paying attention to how we live and work.

Ultimately, everything goes downhill. Whether it is a cigarette butt, a drip from a leaky island car, or the contents of a sudsy mop bucket, if it ends up on pavement or other hard surfaces, chances are it will eventually find its way into the harbor.

As I work with businesses in 2010, I plan to continue stressing the basics of “source control.” This concept is simple: Use pollution-prevention techniques and best management practices to prevent, control and treat pollutants before they enter the environment. What this means in the real world is avoiding outdoor use and storage of hazardous materials, storing chemicals safely, having containment and spill kits to clean up accidental spills, and understanding how to classify the waste you generate so you know what type of disposal is appropriate.

In 2010, I am also hoping to finally get my official button: “I’m from the government and I’m here to help!” Seriously, please contact me if I can answer any questions about safe chemical handling and disposal, and keeping pollutants out of the environment.

— Brian Rader is coordinator of the San Juan County Pollution Prevention Program.

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