EnviroStars help keep Kitsap green

"As society becomes more aware of the dangers of chemical dumping, tension rises between companies that need to stay in business and the governments that need to enforce laws. Elizabeth McCloskey of the Bremerton-Kitsap Health District wants to make the relationship between government and business a little smoother. The EnviroStars program manager has a close eye on how businesses in Kitsap County are getting rid of their waste and how she can encourage them, not intimidate them, to do a better job.It's a non-enforcement type of program, McCloskey said. I like that it offers incentives. EnviroStars, which was started in King County in 1995 and came to Kitsap in 1997, is a program that recognizes businesses that properly dispose of hazardous waste. Hazardous wastes can include anything from cleaning solvents to motor oil, and many companies might not know that they are dumping hazardous waste improperly.They (businesses) want to do the right thing but they're overwhelmed, McCloskey said. They don't have the time or the personnel to deal with these issues.So McCloskey encourages businesses, regardless of how they currently dispose of waste, to contact her and set up an appointment. Since the atmosphere is more relaxed than a government official knocking down a door looking for violations, the program is more productive and gives businesses more responsibility in disposing their waste properly.So far, 10 businesses have been recognized as EnviroStars in Kitsap County, including two in Silverdale. One is West Sound Auto, an automobile repair shop off Old Frontier Road. Debbie Thumus, who owns the shop with her husband Doug, said they joined EnviroStars because they were concerned about the environmental ramifications of their business. West Sound received a two-star rating when it joined EnviroStars a year ago, meaning it managed its hazardous waste properly. They were recently upgraded to a three-star business, showing they have reduced the amount of hazardous waste. West Sound Auto continues to work with EnviroStars to get their rating up even more.It's not an easy program to pass. It takes foot work and time, Thumus said. But we know what we are doing is safe. When businesses are recognized as EnviroStars, they earn the right to display the program's logo on their door and recognition from the health district. As the business improves its disposal, they get more recognition from the health district.Hopefully customers will preference these types of companies doing good things for the environment, McCloskey said.Not all businesses that handle hazardous waste are doing a bad job. Thumus said when her business had its initial inspection, it did better than she expected. McCloskey added that businesses are usually surprised at what they are doing right and what they are doing wrong. Although the district has the power to close a business that continually neglects the environment, she said EnviroStars is a program to initiate sound disposal, not shut down businesses.Although the program has not grown at the rate McCloskey had hoped (there are about 20 businesses in the EnviroStars program), she has seen growth and is excited to see more and more businesses become involved in the program. She hopes to double the number of businesses in the program in the next year and to keep businesses and the county on top of hazardous waste disposal.It's a very rewarding program, McCloskey said. We're just trying to keep the stuff from going down the drain."

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