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Stormwater University Workshops

Stormwater Facility Maintenance Workshops

Stormwater University is designed to help businesses and citizens understand best management practices for preventing and mitigating pollution.  This purpose of this phase of the program is to provide education about how to maintain stormwater facilities, including ditches, swales, rain garden, stormwater ponds, oil-water separators, and other structures.  

There are many reasons to maintain your stormwater system.  If you maintain your system, you will help protect downstream water quality and habitat for wildlife and people to enjoy.  In addition to keeping water clean, a well-maintained stormwater facility will help protect downstream properties from potential flood or erosion damage.  A little bit of maintenance goes a long way - if you keep up with some simple tasks, you may avoid having to pay for expensive repairs later. 

Contact Lee First for more info.

How to Identify and Reduce Stormwater Pollution
Stormwater runoff (or polluted runoff) is rain that falls on streets, parking areas, sports fields, gravel lots, rooftops or other developed land and flows directly into nearby lakes, rivers and Puget Sound. The drizzling or pounding rain picks up and mixes with what's on the ground, including oil, grease, metals, fertilizers, bacteria, soap, soil, and whatever else is on the ground.On any rainy day, the rain that falls on streets, parking lots, rooftops and impervious surfaces in downtown Bellingham flows into nearby Squalicum and Whatcom Creeks and into the Bay.  This runoff – known as “stormwater” - is grayish in color and contains streaks of oil grease, metals, coolants, fertilizers, pesticides, bacteria, sediment, soaps, cigarettes, small pieces of plastic and whatever else ends up on the ground. 

Although much of this pollution is not visible to the naked eye, stormwater is the leading contributor to water pollution in urban waterways in Washington.  Due in large part to this run off, thousands of acres of productive local shellfish growing beaches are conditionally closed, and others are threatened. 

Stormwater causes a myriad of problems in addition to contaminating shellfish.  Water quality in local streams is declining, and is harming or killing fish and other wildlife.  Cigarette butts and other small trash litter our waterways.  The pollutants from our streets and lifestyles are conveyed into Puget Sound, and they don’t go away – they wash up on our beaches where our kids and pets swim and play, and contaminate our food chain.

The Baykeeper team at RE Sources is working hard to combat this pollution.  We continue to work with developers, construction contractors, mobile cleaning businesses, boat repair facilities, auto shops and citizens to inspire them to take steps to prevent stormwater pollution.  But all of us have a role to play in protecting our waterways.

The plants and animals that live in our rivers, streams and bays need you to help prevent stormwater pollution too.  It’s easy and here are some suggestions.  If you have a car, wash it at a commercial car wash, and check frequently to see it’s not leaking any fluids.  If you use lawn chemicals, carefully follow application instructions and research alternative methods.   Got lots of leaves in the fall?  Take them to Clean Green instead of allowing them to reach the street where they block storm drains. Talk to your neighbors about stormwater if you see them washing their car in their driveway.  Is there a stormdrain near your house?  Watch over it, check it often and talk to your kids and neighbors about why only rain is allowed down the storm drain.  Think about replacing your lawn with native vegetation. Clean up after your pets.  Pick up trash on your street.   Are you planning to do an outdoor job at home or at work that might impact stormwater?  Call or contact the City of Bellingham Storm and Surface Water Utility, or the Whatcom County Stormwater Division. Stormwater staff members are excited to help you figure out creative ways to keep stormwater clean.  Attend the next Stormwater University workshop (  Choose one of these steps or make up one of your own.

But most of all, open your eyes and look around next time it’s raining – when you follow the water, you’ll know where stormwater pollution is going.

Click here to download RE Sources and Whatcom County's Stormwater Facilities Inspection and Maintenance Handbook, which has detailed information about how to prevent stormwater pollution.

Past Tours

Over the past few years, the Baykeeper team has organized a series of tours to view stormwater management practices at businesses in Whatcom and Skagit counties. We offer these tours as a way for businesses with good stormwater practices to showcase their operations, and to inspire others to take the same steps. Past tours have been held at Whatcom Transit Authority, Fairhaven Shipyards, Ferndale Grain, Smith & Morrison Farms, and other locations.  Two of these are highlighted below.

Tuesday, June 1, 2011 
Gundies Auto Recyclers, Bellingham

Gundies was a most interesting candidate for a tour as it has been in business since 1961, has over 85 employees at three facilities, and is the largest auto recycler in Whatcom County.  But most of all, we wanted to see it  because according to a local Department of Ecology stormwater inspector, auto recycling yards typically have a very high potential to pollute surface water.

On June 1, 13 people gathered for a tour of Gundies Auto Recyclers.  We were a diverse group, including government representatives, business owners, interested citizens, and RE Sources staff and interns.

What did we see?  Inside this covered shed is an oily parts and engine wash system, which both recycles and reuses wash water.  This is good because there is no discharge of dirty water from this process.  Inside one of the tanks in this shed is a biological treatment unit - the staff adds a specially formulated bacteria once a month, and the bacteria digest the waste products.

Throughout the yard, we also saw a series of drainage ditches, each ditch leading to an oil/water/sediment trap system, pictured here.  All the stormwater drains through these units before it drains off site, and eventually into Squalicum Creek, a fish bearing stream. 

Gundies' staff checks and changes the filters and removes sediment from these systems every month. 

How long have they done this?  Many years. 

Why?  They like to do things the right way. 

And the best news is this: the discharged stormwater from the site is regularly analyzed for hydrocarbons, zinc, lead, and turbidity.  The levels of these contaminants have always been below the allowable limits. 

It was obvious to all of us on the tour that the staff at Gundies is proud of these practices, as they should be. 

Thanks Gundies for taking these steps to protect our water! 

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Smith and Morrison Potato Processing Facility, Mount Vernon

potato tour

In December, 21 people attended our tour of the Smith & Morrison Potato Processing Facility, south of Mount Vernon.  This was one of an ongoing series of tours organized by RE Sources to exchange information about stormwater best management practices and water pollution issues.  Why a potato washing facility?  Because potato and bulb washing and processing are big business in the Skagit delta, and most of the time, the sediment-laden wash water is not recycled or treated, and has the potential to harm our streams and rivers.  Sediment is a pollutant under state law - it clogs fish gills, blocks sunlight, traps heat, smothers fish eggs, and causes other problems.


There are ten potato processing facilities in the Skagit Delta.  Only this facility has an NPDES permit (that's National Pollution Discharge and Elimination System), two are currently gaining coverage under the permit, and the rest don't have permits.  We like these permits because they require the facility to collect regular samples of their discharge water, and follow best management practices.


The treatment system at Smith & Morrison Farms collects, recycles, and treats all the water used for potato washing.  A series of sediment ponds has been created to allow the fine sediment to settle before clean water is discharged to a nearby fish bearing watercourse.  This facility won the 2004 Environmental Stewardship Award from the National Potato Council.


Towards the end of the tour, Keith Morrison showed us one of his huge potato storage sheds, complete with sophisticated temperature and humidity controls, and a huge fan system.  He told us "we're creating the same conditions as underground, so the potatoes think they're still underground."  He went on to say "potatoes have brains, and they'll continue to think they're underground until about April."   None of us had thought about potatoes with brains before.  Everyone on the tour was very impressed, and we left knowing that Keith is in the right business, and he's setting an example that we hope the rest of the potato farmers follow.

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Photos from the most recent stormwater university workshop:
Participants learn how to keep process water out of the stormwater system.
Pressure wash water is considered "process water" and should never be allowed to enter the stormwater system.

Contact us if you would like to attend a free stormwater workshop!

If you would like to learn more about stormwater click here to download RE Sources and Whatcom County's handbook.

Be sure and check out the Baykeeper Blog!

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May 18, 2011, 9:06 AM
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