Manager, Washington Clean Marina Program
When he was 10 years old, Andy Gregory was sailing Sunfish and Lasers on Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island. Not a bad way to spend the summer for the Wickford, R.I., native. By the time he was 15 he was working for Safe/Sea, the local TowBoatUS affiliate, and before he earned his high school diploma he had earned his first captain’s license — an OUPV 6-pack.
In the years since, he has upgraded his license, operated charter sailboats, environmental sampling vessels, and towing and salvage vessels from New England to the Turks and Caicos and from San Francisco to Dutch Harbor, Alaska.
“Time and travels brought me to the Pacific Northwest where I’ve settled,” said Gregory, the pollution prevention director at the Puget Soundkeeper Alliance. “I’ve continued to work in the marine industry.”
Also the manager of the state of Washington’s Clean Marina program, Gregory is a big proponent of keeping the water and the environment pristine. We asked him more about the Clean Marina Program and what boaters can do to contribute to keeping the water clean.
Sea: What is the Clean Marina program and how did it get started?
Gregory: The Washington state Clean Marina program is a collaborative, incentive-based, voluntary certification program for marinas in Washington that are working to prevent pollution. Marina and boater-generated pollution including vessel sewage, oil spills and debris from maintenance activities degrades water quality and can have local and regional impacts on wildlife and human health. By implementing Best Management Practices, or BMPs, boaters and marina staff can dramatically reduce pollution, keeping the water safe for swimming, fishing, and shellfish harvesting.
There are seven partner organizations that oversee the state program, including Puget Soundkeeper, the Northwest Marine Trade Association, Washington SeaGrant, Department of Ecology, Department of Natural Resources, State Parks, and the EnviroStars Cooperative. The program was started by Puget Soundkeeper and the other partners as an expansion of the EnviroStars certification program in 2006. It is similar to other state- or regional-based programs but operates independently in Washington state. Currently there are 73 certified marinas.
How do marinas get certified?
Marinas must complete an eligibility checklist and application, which function as a confidential environmental self-audit of everything from spill response to hazardous waste management. After we receive a completed application packet, a representative from the program conducts a site visit to provide technical assistance. This often consists of providing spill response materials, secondary containment for hazardous materials or information about grant funding for vessel sewage pumpouts.
The cornerstone of the Clean Marina program is the set of Best Management Practices, which marinas adopt as part of their tenant rules and regulations. BMPs are commonsense solutions that, when implemented by boaters or marina staff, prevent pollution from entering the waterways.
What sorts of practices do Clean Marinas engage in that make them stand out?
Marinas in Washington state are engaged in a variety of creative projects to protect the environment. Common practices are providing free spill kits and sewage pumpout adaptors to boaters, hosting clean boating seminars or providing pumpouts free of charge. Five-star or Leadership Level Clean Marinas go above and beyond, installing energy-saving lights, low-flow showers to save water, or rain gardens to reduce polluted stormwater runoff. There are also a few clever incentive programs such as Port of Seattle’s “Clean Captain’s Club,” which promotes environmental leadership within the marina.
What are the obvious and subtle ways the Clean Marina program benefits boaters?
Boaters and marina staff are natural stewards of the environment. By taking simple steps to prevent oil spills, use less soap, dispose of sewage at a shore-side facility, or prevent trash from being blown overboard, boaters are keeping the water and shorelines clean and safe for themselves and their children to swim, sail and fish. Additionally, access to clean water is a right that everyone has, and marina pollution can be an environmental justice issue for those who rely on clean water for subsistence fishing or shellfish harvesting.
How can boaters get involved?
It’s easy to get involved. Boaters can pitch in the next time they get underway, by using oil-absorbent pads to prevent drips at the fuel dock, utilizing holding tanks and sewage pumpouts, switching to environmentally friendly cleaning products, and remembering the simple motto “only water goes in the water.” Additionally, talk to your local marina manager or harbormaster to find out if your homeport is certified and encourage them to contact the local Clean Marina or Clean Harbors representative.
For a detailed list of BMPs, download a free copy of “Pollution Prevention for Washington State Marinas” at wsg.washington.edu/marina-handbook. Visit cleanmarinawashington.org. for more information.