Having fruitful conversations about pollution

Nobody wants to be a tattle-tale. How do you prevent pollution without the blame game? |February 3, 2020

Stop pollution now

By Hilary Parker, Water Reporter user. See part 1 of her blog here.

In a perfect world, when you notice someone unintentionally doing something that harms water quality, they would adjust their habits after a gentle nudge from a neighbor.

“If you see your neighbor polluting (like washing their car, letting soap go straight down the drain) and you feel comfortable discussing with them, then that is great,” said Kirsten McDade, RE Sources’ Pollution Prevention Specialist. “I realize that most people may not feel comfortable with this, so I am not asking people to go out of their comfort zone. But people can post in their neighborhood newsletters or websites (NextDoor) and not feel they are attacking one person.”

Ultimately, Kirsten hopes having discussions will raise awareness, develop relationships with state and local agencies, and create a community of water reporters. When you see pollution, you can always report it —without emphasizing who caused it — if you’re worried talking to the person could cause a confrontation.

“There are a very limited number of people who regulate the health of our water bodies, and they cannot see all the pollution that is occurring,” Kirsten said. “So far, the regulatory agencies have been thankful for the reports people like you have submitted to them.”

Kirsten stresses that, when possible, the person who finds and reports the pollution take steps to clean it up if possible, by safely picking up the trash. If you cannot easily clean it up, and you’re not sure how to get in contact with those who people, that’s where Kirsten comes in. Contact her with pollution concerns at kirstenm@re-sources.org or call the Pollution Hotline at (360) 220-0556.

Thankfully, this community has a largely untapped resource that can stop pollution: You! 

Many folks in our area spend lots of time walking, hiking, biking, and paddling all corners of our county. If they are trained to spot pollution, it will more likely be cleaned up.

One of those people is Teresa Flodin. She’s an avid paddler, who is accustomed to finding trash on the beach when she’s out kayaking. With Water Reporter, she can document her efforts.

“I think it’s pretty easy – and that is with no instruction on how to use it.”

Teresa has been using the app mainly to report plastics and trash that she then picks up when recreating as well as when she spots it near her office – solving that pollution problem herself. She recently reported a foam build up on Baker Creek. Along with documenting it on the app, she emailed the Washington Department of Ecology. 

She’s also had contact with Taylor Shellfish after finding some of their oyster traps washed up on a beach south of Fairhaven. Teresa said she has been pleased to see the shellfish farm has been responsive and willing to help clean up the material she found.

Get more information on the Water Reporter program, including upcoming workshops on how to use the app:

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This product is funded through a Public Participation Grant from the Department of Ecology.