Faces of YWG: Helping to minimize the airport’s environmental footprint

Faces of YWG is a profile series on the people working around the Winnipeg Richardson International Airport who help the Winnipeg Airports Authority go above and beyond.

Every year, as nature wakes up from its long winter hibernation, Christa DeBlaere reacquaints herself with two lesser-known features of the airfield at Winnipeg Richardson International Airport.

For her, this visit (the first of many during the warmer months) is a sign spring has sprung and a chance to check back in with the two now thawed creeks on the airport campus.

“I don’t think many people, not even the most seasoned travellers, know that two Assiniboine River tributaries, Omand’s Creek and Truro Creek, run across the airfield,” said DeBlaere.

As Winnipeg Airport Authority’s Environmental Specialist, DeBlaere is responsible for monitoring the water quality of the two creeks to ensure it’s as clean leaving the airport as it is coming into the campus. She scoops samples from various locations on the airfield as well as upstream and downstream throughout the year when the water isn’t frozen to test for any contaminants.

“Water supply is such a major issue,” said DeBlaere. “We’re lucky in Canada that we have such a large amount of freshwater.”

DeBlaere has been helping WAA minimize its impact on the environment for the past four years. On top of testing water quality, she also works to explore new partnerships, projects and opportunities to enhance the airport’s sustainability practices.

“Growing up, I always liked geography and environmental stewardship is an offshoot of that,” said DeBlaere. “It’s extremely rewarding as everything you do, even the small tasks, add up to protect the earth.”

To reduce the airport’s environmental footprint and address climate change, DeBlaere works with different teams and organizations on the campus to manage carbon emissions. In 2020, her efforts helped YWG successfully renew its certification under Airports Council International’s Airport Carbon Accreditation Program for a fifth consecutive year. She was also part of the team that launched the airport’s Strategic Management and Carbon Energy Plan while continuing to steer WAA’s waste reduction program and wildlife management program.

“For the most part, it’s never the same thing twice,” said DeBlaere. “Environmental stewardship is constantly evolving. There’s always new regulations, guidelines or practices to learn. We’re constantly looking for ways to adapt the way we operate as an airport to keep the environment healthy.”

Just like the two creeks, this commitment flows across the airport. From the airfield to the boardroom, several steps have been taken, such as the installation of an analytical device to help identify opportunities to enhance energy efficiency in the terminal, to ensure the community can always benefit from all the beauty the environment has to offer.

“I think it’s extremely important we do everything we can to protect our natural resources,” said DeBlaere. “We only have one earth. We need to make sure future generations can enjoy it.”

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