(Photograph by the Business Journal’s Annette Semerdjian)

James Vernon, manager of water quality practices for the Port of Long Beach, began his career at the port in 2006 as an environmental specialist assistant. Now, he works with a team of three specialists in the water quality division to ensure compliance with environmental regulations pertaining to water quality. The division also focuses on implementing the Green Port Policy, which aims to mitigate negative impacts from port operations and to make the port as environmentally friendly as possible. Lack of strong environmental regulations in the past made it easier for companies to dispose of hazardous materials improperly, which eventually led to ocean contamination in California’s coastal areas, according to Vernon. One way to address this marine pollution, he explained, is through dredging, a process that involves removing contaminated harbor sediment while creating new land with excavated materials. Vernon is working on a dredging project within the port’s Middle Harbor to create a larger terminal as well as a healthier marine ecosystem, he noted. The Port of Long Beach is also working with the Port of Los Angeles and the regional water quality control board to tackle marine pollution in the area, he said. “Throughout my career I wanted to get involved in being a steward for the ocean,” Vernon said. “Being able to be in a position where I’m protecting it for future generations, so other Californians can grow up and enjoy the same things I did . . . it’s something that I can feel proud of.”