For his very first story in this series, Phillip Martello, port environmental specialist, introduced us to stormwater and today he’s sharing another important water protection element the Port of Vancouver uses – an Environmental Management System (EMS).

Port of Vancouver Environmental Specialist Phillip Martello stands next to one of the updated updated wellhead protection area awareness signs

“It’s not widely known that the port owns and maintains its own water system,” said Martello. “This system provides clean drinking water for industrial tenants and marine vessels, as well as irrigation and fire protection. The water comes from three port-owned wells in the Troutdale Aquifer and with the wellheads being located near an active industrial area, we want to proactively protect this water supply – that’s where the EMS comes in.”

As defined by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), an EMS is a framework that helps an organization achieve its environmental goals through consistent review, evaluation and improvement of its environmental performance.

The port’s Wellhead Protection Area EMS is designed to address water quality, water supply, pollution prevention and system integrity to ensure the water system is continually improving. By bringing together a cross-departmental EMS team, who not only evaluates the goals, but puts them into action, the port is able to identify opportunities to help further ensure that potential risks to the wellhead are prevented and properly managed.

“We were one of the first U.S. ports to implement an Environmental Management System with a comprehensive approach to drinking water protection and contamination prevention,” said Martello.

One example of the EMS in action last year was the inspection and replacement of track mats (mats that prevent drips or leaks from reaching the ground surface) under the port’s rail infrastructure.

For 2021, goals include installing updated awareness signs alerting individuals when they enter the protection zone, applying for a grant to install additional security cameras and adding a devoted EMS section to the port’s website to help educate and share information about the Wellhead Protection EMS.

“We strive to be environmental stewards in all aspects of our work,” said Martello. “In addition to the standard requirements by the Washington State Department of Health, Department of Ecology and local environmental regulations, the EMS adds an additional layer to our efforts.”

To learn more about the port’s environmental stewardship efforts, including water quality, habitat management and more, visit