Green Infrastructure Can Help Save Our Salmon

 

Salmon are a cornerstone of our cultural identity in Seattle and the Pacific Northwest. Salmon are vital to our economy, our environment and our sense of place. The health of our native salmon runs has been identified as an indicator of the overall health of Puget Sound and local streams. Scientists have been researching the connection between declining salmon populations and urban stormwater pollution. These scientists have discovered a major threat to the health of our salmon but they have also discovered a simple solution that mitigates the impacts 100% of the time.

As our human population grows, so does the magnitude of pollutants released into our waterways. Large quantities of contaminants such as metals, petroleum-derived compounds like oil, grease, vehicle exhaust, and detergents accumulate on our roadways and parking lots where there is no absorption. Every time it rains, these containments are washed directly into storm drains and into our creeks, lakes, the Duwamish River, and Puget Sound. Researchers have now found a direct link between polluted urban stormwater runoff and salmon mortality.

A recent straightforward study exposed salmon to stormwater runoff from a local highway.  In every case, the salmon died within 4 to 6 hours. The conclusion was clear: stormwater pollution is lethal to salmon. However, the study also tested a potential solution. When researchers first filtered the highway runoff through a column filled with a soil mixture and then exposed the salmon to this cleansed water, they survived 100% of the time.
Filtering water through a living, plant-soil system is the basis for green stormwater infrastructure (GSI). The City of Seattle has listened to the science and determined this is a direct influence we can have on Puget Sound. By using GSI we can help to improve water quality and prevent more contaminants from reaching our waterways. For this reason, we have set an ambitious goal to accelerate the use of green infrastructure in our city and are also supporting regional green infrastructure efforts.

The Washington Nature conservancy created a great short video highlighting this research. You can find the video at http://www.washingtonnature.org/cities/solvingstormwater

For more information on the research: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0045653514014805

For more info on what the City of Seattle is doing with GSI visit our webpage: http://www.seattle.gov/environment/water/green-stormwater-infrastructure

 

Seattle’s equity and environment agenda aims to flip the script for social justice

Reposted from Resource Media

April 25, 2016

The Duwamish is Seattle’s only real river. It is also the city’s only Superfund site, and it’s a doozy, a complex mishmash of contaminated mud and sediment from years as Seattle’s main industrial artery. People live along the Duwamish, lots of people. 60 percent of these residents are people of color. According to a report by the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition:

“Duwamish Valley residents are more likely to live in poverty, be foreign born, have no health insurance or leisure time, and are more likely to be sick. Georgetown and South Park residents have up to a 13-year shorter life expectancy (at birth) than wealthier parts of Seattle.”

So when Seattle Mayor Ed Murray came to banks of the Duwamish on the morning of Earth Day to announce Seattle’s new equity and the environment agenda, he was standing on ground zero for the connection, or far too often, the disconnect between social justice and environmental protection. As 2014’s Green 2.0 report outlined in stark terms, mainstream environmental groups remain predominantly white, both nationally, and here in Seattle. Jose Vasquez, the Director of Programs for the Latino Community Fund and a resident of the Duwamish Valley put it this way. “We are the first to be impacted and the last to be included.”

Of course this troubling gap between impact and inclusion is sometimes explained away by the baseless claim that people of color don’t care as much about the environment as white people do. If the consistent polling that shows the exact opposite to be true isn’t enough to crater that myth, the array of dedicated activists standing behind the Mayor when he announced the agenda presented a penetrating image of the real face of environmental change. Jose Vasquez said, “Today, we are flipping the script.”

The people doing the script-flipping are people of color who lead by working in and advocating for their communities. Their organizations often struggle to get funding, especially when compared to mainstream environmental groups. That is one of the discrepancies the people standing behind the mayor have been wrestling with for the last 12 months.  They were part of a Community Partners Steering Committee that worked many hours to draft Mayor Murray’s ambitious agenda. At a high level, the agenda seeks to address inequities in the environmental health of the places people of color live, inequities in city-level decision making, inequities in the opportunities people of color have to participate in efforts to make their communities safer and more just. Running through all the agenda items is an idea that amounts to common sense. People bearing the brunt of a problem like poor water quality or inadequate open space or barriers to civic participation usually have some of the most insightful and specific solutions.

I saw that principle in action first hand when Resource Media participated in the latter part of the agenda development as a mainstream ally group. During one of the opening exercises, both the mainstream and people of color (POC) led groups were asked to list ideas for addressing environmental justice inequities in Seattle. The ideas from the POC led groups were specific and actionable. The ideas from the ally groups, including my own, were flaccid platitudes by comparison. It drove home a lesson for me that was very much on mind as I watched Mayor Murray on the banks of the Duwamish, flanked by the people who can actually make his agenda come to life if we give them the resources and support they need and deserve. As the Mayor himself said “We need to create environmental leaders who look like this city.” Based on my experience working with his steering committee, we already have them if we choose to listen.

Written By: Scott Miller, CEO of Resource Media

Online Resources, Photos and Talks from GSI Summit

This past February the City of Seattle was pleased to join Stewardship Partners, The Nature Conservancy, Washington Environmental Council, Washington State University, MIG-SvR Design, Boeing, Vulcan, and many other collaborators and sponsors to co-host the first Puget Sound Green Infrastructure Summit.

Resources, photos and talks from this Summit are now available on-line at: www.12000raingardens.org/summit/

Open House Event for Environmentally Critical Areas

(re-posted from DPD’s blog)

Seattle has five environmentally critical areas such as wetlands and wildlife habitat areas. How do we protect these environmentally critical areas (ECAs)? DPD is hosting an open house event for the update to our ECA regulations on Wednesday, February 25, 5:30-7:00pm in the Bertha Knight Landes Room at City Hall.    

The presentation will explain what and where environmentally critical areas are, how we incorporate Best Available Science, and how the ECA regulations protect critical areas. Learn about the Growth Management Act and how it influences updates and changes to ECA regulations. This event will help guide the effectiveness of our ECA policies and regulations.

In Seattle, environmentally critical areas include the following: wetlands, fish and wildlife habitat conservation areas, geologic hazard areas, flood-prone areas, and abandoned landfills.

More information about the ECA update is here.

Free and Discounted Water Saving Toilets

(re-posted from SPU’s blog)

Free Toilets (Income-qualified only)
Seattle Public Utilities, in partnership with Minor Home Repair, is providing free toilets and installation for income-qualified homeowners. For example, a family of four earning less than $4,905 per month may qualify. Homes must be located in Seattle and have existing toilets installed before 2004. For more information, call 206-448-5751or go to www.seattle.gov/util/freetoilets.

$75 Toilet Rebates
For a limited time, customers replacing pre-2004 water-guzzling toilets with the latest 1.06 gallons per flush models will receive a $75 rebate per toilet replaced (limit 2 per household). Learn more by calling 206-684-SAVE (7283) or go to www.savingwater.org/rebates for a list of eligible models and where you can find them.