Working with Boaters and Marine Trades for Cleaner Washington Water

An Interview with Michelle Gaither of the PPRC.

(Author’s note: 2018 has not only brought the reboot of Clean Boating Foundation, it has also meant that I have had the chance to meet a slough of new people working to improve water quality and reduce pollution in Puget Sound. Recently, I had the good fortune to interview Michelle Gaither of the Pacific Northwest Pollution Prevention Resource center (PPRC for short) about her background what happens at PPRC. Please take a look.)


Adria: Michelle, it’s great to work together on clean water issues. Before we dig into PPRC’s work, can you first tell me a little about yourself and what do you do at the PPRC? What is your main area of focus? How did get into this field of interest?

Michelle: Well, thanks so much for having me. As for me, I’m a buy mom with 4 kids (ages 13-19). I stay active in their lives by coaching middle-school volleyball and basketball. And when I can find the time, I love to garden.

At PPRC, I am the Industrial Engineer. I have worked there for almost 20 years!

Much of my work is assisting businesses and manufacturers to reduce their environmental footprint.    We try to provide businesses in the areas of toxics reduction/safer alternatives, energy and water efficiency, material efficiency, stormwater pollutants, and waste and wastewater minimization,   

Adria: What is the PPRC and what do they do?

Michelle: PPRC is a non-profit, non-regulatory organization that provides free technical assistance to small to medium-sized businesses in the Pacific Northwest, to help them reduce their environmental footprint.  Our efforts focus on low-cost/no-cost ways to reduce pollution, energy, water use, wastewater, chemicals and wastes.  A few local companies we have assisted in the past few years include Pioneer Industries, Port of Port Townsend, and the Craft Brew Alliance (aka the former Redhook Brewery). 

Adria: What is your past experience working with boatyards?

Michelle: PPRC conducted research on ways to reduce zinc in stormwater, and engaged with in a partnership with the Port of Port Townsend’s Boat Haven for part of this project.  We co-produced a video, with the Port, to address zinc sources at boatyards and why it’s important to do so.  We also piloted testing of a biochar formulation as filtration media in their stormwater treatment system, which worked very well. 

The project and video and reports from that work can be found here.

Adria: Tell me a little bit about the projects that you are working on, specifically the Safer Alternatives for Boatyard Project?

Michelle: I am currently working on pollution prevention assessments at a coffee roastery, a ready-mix cement plant, and recently conducted assessments at a kombucha manufacturer and an engine refinisher.  We provide the assessments and follow up with recommendations to improve environmental performance and offer technical assistance to implement any of the recommendations companies want to take on.

We are excited about the Safer Alternatives for Boatyard Project, and especially to be able to partner with the Clean Boating Foundation.  The ultimate goal is to identify or generate new best practices to better and hopefully, more easily contain or minimize certain pollutants of concern for water quality, relating to hull paint removal, hull painting, hull washing and waxing, and possibly also from zinc anodes. 

Adria: What do you hope to accomplish with this project?

Michelle: Our goal is to further reduce zinc and copper and other hull-related pollutants to waterways, in addition to what boatyards are already doing in this area. 

Adria: Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me. It sounds like we will be spending a lot of time together on this shared project. Who knows, maybe we can find other projects to work on together.