Nanticoke Health Services host for Sustainability Day

By Lynn R. Parks

Last Tuesday morning, about two dozen employees of Nanticoke Health Services donned waterproof hip boots and waded into the Nanticoke River and into Williams Pond. For three hours, they pulled garbage and debris from the banks of the river and pond.

"We got mattresses, tires, barrels, even a picnic table," said Jim Watson, director of facilities for Nanticoke Health Services.

That same day, Nanticoke Memorial Hospital hosted Sustainability Day, a three-hour event for Nanticoke employees that focused on ways that the health provider is conserving resources and reducing pollutants and its carbon footprint as well as things that homeowners can do to do the same.

It was a cold and blustery day. And the displays were set up in an outdoor tent in the hospital's back parking lot, where the wind was blowing in from the river. Even so, nearly 250 people attended, Watson said.

The event featured displays set up by the city of Seaford, the Nanticoke Watershed Alliance, First Class Home Services, which does HVAC, plumbing and electrical work, Stryker Sustainability Solutions, which reprocesses used medical devices, and SolarCity, which leases solar electricity-generating systems to homeowners. Also there were representatives with Envirotech Environmental Consulting, a Milton-based consulting company that helps to manage stormwater ponds and coastlines. Envirotech is working with Nanticoke to manage the shorelines that border its properties. There are two such shorelines: the Nanticoke River bank behind the hospital and the Williams Pond bank on the other side of Stein Highway, bordering a hospital parking lot.

Mike Gosnell with the SolarCity facility in Seaford said that events like Sustainability Day are an important way for the company to introduce itself to the community. "Things like this help us to publicize our products so that people can find out what we're offering," he said.

Beth Wasden, volunteer and outreach coordinator with the Nanticoke Watershed Alliance, said that her organization also values the publicity.

"It's pretty rare for us to attend an event when it's so cold outside," she said. "But whatever the weather, it's important to get information out about the river and how to protect it."

Brooke Baker with Envirotech brought with her to the event a small tub of recently gathered creek water, complete with a number of small critters swimming and crawling around in it. "This is how things should look in a healthy water system," Baker said. Among the water creatures in the tub were darters, pumpkinseed fish, dragonfly nymphs, snails and damsel fly nymphs. There had been a crawfish in the mix, she said. But it had mysteriously disappeared.

Watson has been with Nanticoke Health Services for two years. In that time, he said, the organization has increasingly focused on recycling, repurposing and saving energy. "We stress reductions – of emissions into the air, of pollutants in the Nanticoke, of energy use and of municipal waste," he said.

All of that benefits the community that NHS serves, Watson added. "And the nice thing is that as a byproduct, the hospital saves money."

Lower energy use means a small electric bill and fewer greenhouse gas emissions. Recycling means that NHS doesn't have to pay landfill fees. Reprocessing medical instruments – using them once, having them professionally cleaned and inspected and then using them again – means lower equipment costs.

"We didn't start out by saying, 'Let's do this because we'll save money,'" Watson said. "We started out to help the environment. But there are some nice byproducts from a financial perspective."

Watson said that he plans for Nanticoke Health Services to continue sponsoring sustainability events, perhaps twice a year. While the next event hasn't been scheduled yet, he said that it will be geared toward members of the community as well as to Nanticoke employees.

News tips wanted
Call us with ideas for news and features. We're always looking for good stories to share with readers. Call Bryant Richardson at 629-9788.