By Austin F.
Recently, the AP Environmental Sciences class and myself were given the opportunity to tour Albert Jensen and Sons Boatyard and Marina. The main purpose of our visit was to look at the comprehensive storm water collection system in place at the location. Due to Jensen’s status as a boatyard, they are legally obligated to catch and collect every drop of storm water that falls on their property. This is because of the use of metals and other chemical substances that are present, which may cause harm to the waters surrounding the property if they were washed into the bay.
As we all board the trusty SSIS bus, I feel intrigued at the prospect of seeing and asking questions about this very sophisticated system we are only moments away from studying. We arrive at Jensen’s, and are greeted by Mike Ahrenius, the owner and operator of the currently 106-year-old business. Mr. Ahrenius started by first sharing a brief history of the property and also telling us that it is the oldest running business in San Juan County. Jensen’s boatyard is also the 9th boatyard in Washington State to receive “Leadership Clean Boatyard” certification from the Clean Boating Foundation of Washington, which awards this level of certification to boatyards that go “well above and beyond” legally required environmental protections. After a few minutes, it’s time to see the system!
We start off by walking down the hill to a large concrete pad about the size of our school parking lot. Mr. Ahrenius tells us that this pad serves two purposes. The first purpose is that the pad is the low spot in the yard and the place for the rain water to flow down to before being collected in holding tanks. The second purpose for the pad is that is acts as the driving surface for the boatyard’s marine travel lift. The travel lift is what Mr. Ahrenius and his crew use to lift boats (up to fifty feet long) out of the water. The pad also collects water, marine organisms, and bottom paint from the pressure washing of boat hulls after haul out.
From here we worked our way over to a shed, which houses the biodigester. Mr. Ahrenius described the biodigester as a split tank with a ton of microscopic “bugs” floating around the system and decomposing all the particles in the storm water as well as the wash down water used on the bottoms of boats. His favorite part about the digester was that it needed almost no attention. All that need be done to maintain it is to pour another bag of “bugs” in every month!
By this point, I was already quite impressed at the length that Mr. Ahrenius’ business has gone to in order to safeguard the waters surrounding the property. But I wanted to know why all of these measures only applied to boatyards and not marinas like The Port of Friday Harbor. Mr. Ahrenius told the group that Jensen’s is a private corporation, not part of the public works. Therefore, there were different rules in place. Jensen’s is primarily a boatyard as well as a marina. Under a law passed in association with the Clean Water Act, all businesses classified as boatyards had to collect and filter all storm water that falls within the boundaries of their property. After hearing this, I thought to myself “Where does all the water go after it’s filtered?” Mr. Ahrenius answered that at our next stop.
As we stood on the banks of the 70,000-gallon holding pond for the filtered storm water, it was amazing to see the magnitude of how much water actually falls on this yard. After the water is filtered it runs though subsurface piping into the pond. There it is cleaned of all debris, chemicals, and metals like zinc all of which are commonly used around the boatyard.
As we concluded our visit, we thanked Mr. Ahrenius for his time. On the bus ride back, I felt good that I had learned something completely new to me. I became more aware that there are people in politics looking out for our environment through the laws put in place, like the Clean Air Act and The Clean Water Act. But also feeling good that people are not trying to short cut the process needed in order to protect our marine environments. All in all, I think our class visit to Jensen’s Boatyard sparked new ideas within all of our eager minds. I am confident that my generation will have the knowhow and the resources to further protect the environment as our predecessors have begun to do.