We all can help protect our rivers.
In order to help lower the port's carbon emissions, the Port of Clarkston partnered with a local utility to install an electric vehicle charging station near the port's offices. This charging stand will allow the two vehicles to be charged at the same time.
To help minimize stormwater runoff from their facilities, the Port of Portland used a porous pavement material to create an 18.9-acre storage and staging yard designed to support the continued growth of export vehicles. The pavement does not require any seal coating, reducing pollutants. The new lot also uses energy efficient LED lights which are position to reduce light pollution.
The Port of Vancouver USA has installed several floating wetlands to absorb sediment and metals suspended in the their stormwater retention ponds. Port employees have also created the Grattix, a "rain garden box" which treats stormwater runoff from galvanized roofs on the port's property.
Tidewater Transportation and Terminals recently built three new state of the art vessels for their Columbia and Snake River operations. These vessels have new engines which produce fewer carbon emissions while operating. The vessels also have advanced safety and navigation systems to protect both the crew and the river environment.
United Grain Corporation has invested in a newly designed locomotive, the RX500. This locomotive saves over 1,000,000 gallons of fuel over the life of the locomotive, which in most cases means a 70% reduction in fuel and completely reduces leaking oil or coolant into the ground. With a new Tier 3/4 engine, emissions have been reduced by as much as 90% compared to other locomotives it is replacing. Because it has AC traction motors, there is no need to replace portions of the motor and reduces the need to replace brake shoes due to dynamic braking. This saves thousands of pounds of waste annually. It is also fitted with a residential grade muffler that reduces noise pollution by as much as 85%.
Steps we can take at home
There are many things we, as consumers, can do at home to both conserve water and protect our rivers from household pollutants.
According to the Washington Department of Ecology, most water pollution comes from things like cars leaking oil; fertilizers and pesticides from yards, gardens and other uses; failing septic tanks; pet waste; and fuel spills from recreational boats.
Many of these problems can be contained at home. Here are a few resources you can use to learn how to be better stewards at home and help protect our rivers:
Many people use fertilizers, weed killers and pesticides to enhance their yards and gardens. But If you use too much of these products or apply them at the wrong time, runoff can easily carry them into storm drains and ditches. Here's what you can do to help.
- Read the label. Follow the instructions.
- Use fertilizer sparingly. Many plants don’t need as much as you might think. Too much can even harm them. Also, roots, leaves and fruits need different nutrients. Test your soil to find the right dose and type to match your plants’ needs.
- Don’t treat your lawn or garden right before a rainstorm.
- Use slow-release fertilizers and other more environmentally friendly products.
- Try non-chemical alternatives. Use compost. Plant companion plants that deter pests. Pull weeds by hand. Use mulch. Trade lawn for native groundcover or shrubs.
- Get expert advice about lawn and garden products from Master Gardeners at your county WSU Extension office.
In recent years sources of water pollution like industrial wastes from factories have been greatly reduced. Now, most water pollution comes from things like cars leaking oil, failing septic tanks and other home leaks. Used motor oil is the largest single source of oil pollution in U.S. lakes, streams and rivers; 180 million gallons of used oil makes its way into our waters each year. Here's what you can do to help.
- Change your motor oil and help keep our waters clean.
- Stop drips. Check for oil leaks regularly and fix them promptly. Keep your car tuned to reduce oil use.
- Use ground cloths or drip pans beneath your vehicle if you have leaks or are doing engine work. Clean up spills immediately. Collect all used oil in containers with tight fitting lids. Do notmix different engine fluids.
- Never dispose of oil or other engine fluids down the storm drain, on the ground or into a ditch.
- Recycle used motor oil. Many auto supply stores and gas stations will accept used oil. To find out more about where you can take used oil for recycling, call the Department of Ecology's 1-800-RECYCLE line.
- Buy recycled (re-refined) motor oil to use in your car.
There's no problem with washing your car. It's just how and where you do it. Most soap contains phosphates and other chemicals that harm fish and water quality. If you live in the city and wash your car in the driveway, the soap - together with the dirt and oil washed from your car - flows into nearby storm drains which run directly into lakes, rivers or marine waters. Here's what you can do to help.
- Use a commercial car wash, either self-serve or machine wash. These facilities treat their water before it's released.
- Wash on lawns or other surfaces where water can seep into the ground.
- Divert water away from storm drains.
On-site septic systems
When your home’s on-site septic system fails, it’s more than a wet, stinky mess. It’s expensive to repair and it’s a health hazard to you, your family and your pets. A good septic system takes care of most health or environmental threats posed by household sewage and wastewater. But septic systems need regular maintenance. Without it, they can fail and overflow. Runoff can then carry untreated sewage across your yard to your neighbor’s property or into surface waters. Here's what you can do to help.
- Get regular inspections and maintenance. Check with your county Environmental Health office for advice. You may be able to do this yourself. The current state Board of Health rule for on-site sewage systems requires a full evaluation every one to three years for a system consisting of a septic tank and a gravity drainfield. All other systems must have a yearly evaluation. You may not need to pump every time, but it’s good to budget as though you will.
- Choose a date or time of the year for inspection that’s easy to remember. Mark it on the calendar.
- Learn how to keep your system functioning —what you can and can’t flush or pour down the drain. No pet waste, medications, grease or toxic chemicals. If you have a garbage disposal, don’t use it or use it sparingly.
- Keep trees at least 30 feet from edge of your drainfield to keep roots from invading. And never drive over the system.
- Watch for cues that your tank is nearing capacity or your system is failing. Got odors? Get someone out to check it right away. Then fix it, if needed.
- Conserve water. Too much can cause solids to escape your tank and plug your drainfield.
- Repair or replace your system when it fails or is otherwise inadequate. Financing may be available through Ecology’s Water Quality Program
If you’re a boater, you can help keep our waters clean every time you fuel up. You can make sure fuel goes only in your tank and not in the water. Many boaters may not be aware they’ve spilled fuel. Unless you take precautions, drips can end up in the water when fuel backsplashes out of the tank, when it discharges out of the vent from over-filling or expansion, or when it drips off the nozzle. Here's what you can do to help.
- Know how much fuel your tanks hold. Fill only to 90% capacity to leave room for expansion, especially during warm weather. Don’t top off your tanks.
- Hold the nozzle when refueling — don’t use a hands-free clip.
- Use an absorbent pad or fuel collar device around the nozzle to catch drips before they spill into the water.
- Watch and listen for cues that your tank is nearing capacity. Stop before any fuel can escape from your tank vents. Have an absorbent pad ready to catch any fuel that escapes.
- Wipe up all spills and drips on deck and dispose of absorbent pads properly.
- Report all spills into the water to the U.S. Coast Guard and Washington’s Emergency Management Division — it’s the law. To report spills, call 800-OILS-911.
Build a rain garden
A rain garden is a beautiful and effective way to clean polluted stormwater runoff. A rain garden acts like a miniature native forest by collecting, absorbing and filtering stormwater runoff from roof tops, driveways, patios and other areas that don’t allow water to soak in. They can be built at several scales and one may be just right for your home or neighborhood. You can learn more about how to install a rain garden from these resources:
- Washington State University Extension
- Oregon State University Extension
- Montana Natural Resources Conservation Services
- Grattix - rain garden in a box flyer and video
There are many other ways you can help protect our rivers at home, while recreating and at work. Talk to your local ecology or conservation district to find out more ways you can conserve and protect our precious resources.