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Urban Creeks, Urban Run Off From You and Me And Puget Sound Water Quality

From: Jack Straw Productions
Length: 05:28

Lede: Polluted waters and oxygen deprived fish aren’t unique to Hood Canal. Urban creeks and waterways all over Puget Sound are plagued by the same problem. Run off from vehicles and chemical fertilizers are the main culprits. Solutions are underway, but for the marine ecosystem to recover, much more needs to happen. Martha Baskin brings us this snapshot from Piper’s Creek, an urban waterway in Seattle’s Carkeek Park. Read the full description.

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Narration: With Green Acre Radio this is Martha Baskin. Creek SndEfx. At the mouth of Piper’s Creek in Carkeek Park, a crowd gathers around Bill Malatinsky. Neighborhood activists, elected officials and a water quality planner are here to learn more about the biggest threat facing Puget Sound – run off from roads, land and hard surfaces, run off that washes into the Sound when it rains. “SO FAR AS PUGET SOUND STORMWATER POLLUTION GOES, THE BIGGEST CONTRIBUTORS ARE TRANSPORTATION, INDIVIDUAL DRIVERS, BOTH LEAKING OIL ONTO THE STREETS AND EVEN WHEN YOU DRIVE PARTICULATES ARE GOING UP INTO THE AIR AND EVENTUALLY RAINING DOWN AND GETTING INTO OUR WATERWAYS.” Malatinsky is an educator with the City’s Restore Our Waters Team. “THE OTHER IS RESIDENTIAL. ALOT OF THAT HAS TO DO WITH PESTICIDE USE, PEOPLE OVERFERTILIZING, OVERTREATING GARDENS AND YARDS.” He’s leading a tour organized by People for Puget Sound, a non-profit dedicated to a clean and healthy Sound. The goal is to engage more people to find solutions on how to do it.

 

The city’s complex sewer system and the way sewage is handled compounds the problem. The system was built before regional population exploded and before run off was recognized as the marine ecosystem’s #1 threat. Some sewage and storm water pipes are combined, others separated. Treatment plants were designed to handle household waste from sewage pipes but not motor oil or oil running down streets into storm drains. Last year an estimated four hundred combined sewer pipes overflowed. County pipes released some 690 million gallons of untreated run off. Again Bill Malatinsky: “SOME OF THEM GO DIRECTLY INTO THE SOUND DEPENDING ON THE HILLS AROUND THEM, INTO LAKE UNION, LAKE WASHINGTON. RIGHT ON THE SHORE HERE, THERE ARE SEWAGE PIPES THAT RUN UNDER NORTH BEACH.”

 

The group walks uphill to a pair of treatment plants named Twin Pipes. “ALL THE STORM DRAINS AND ROOF DRAINS IN GREENWOOD, THE WATER COMING FROM THERE, COMES RIGHT OUT HERE INTO PIPERS CREEK.” I ask if the tar smell is primarily fossil fuels. “YEAH IT’S ROAD RUN OFF, IT’S PARTICULATES FROM PEOPLE’S EXHAUST. CAUSE IT COLLECTS OVER TIME. IT’S NOT JUST ONE DAY. SAY THERE’S THIRTY DRY DAYS IN A ROW ALL THOSE PARTICULATES ARE SITTING ON THE GROUND BUT THEN AS SOON AS IT RAINS ALL THAT IS BEING WASHED RIGHT INTO HERE.”

 

Celina Karseotis with the Crown Hill Neighborhood Association has been working to restore the creek’s water quality, for both people and the salmon who spawn here. She says most people don’t realize that run off on streets flows directly into the creek. When people work on their cars they don’t think its impacting salmon. “AND I’M PRETTY SURE IF THEY WERE CORRECTED, BECAUSE THEY’RE ALL WANTING TO RESTORE THE CREEK, THEY MIGHT NOT DO THAT.” Put cardboard underneath your car, says Bill Malatinsky. Better yet, work on cars in a garage and contain the oil there. Runoff can contribute to low oxygen levels. The most common pollutants linked to reduced oxygen levels are chemical fertilizers which contain high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus. When they wash into waterways they promote algae. During daylight, algae increases oxygen saturation, but at night the same algae take oxygen from the water. Fish kills are not just happening in Hood Canal. At Piper’s Creek 56% of Coho salmon die before they can lay their eggs.

 

The group continues uphill until exiting the park at Northwest 3rd and 107th. This is the good news part of the story. Several years ago the City installed a natural drainage system here, roadside trenches covered in native plants that absorb storm water and pollutants. The approach, says Malatinsky, saw a 99% reduction in storm water coming from the neighborhood. “PLANTS THROUGH BIOFILTRATION CAN TAKE UP ANYTHING THAT’S CARBON BASED SO THEY CAN TAKE OUT A LOT OF PETROLEUM OUT OF STORM WATER AND ALSO THEY CAN TAKE OUT SOME HEAVY METALS LIKE COPPER AND ZINC.”

 

The bad news is the number of green infrastructure or low impact development projects are few. Paved surfaces and traditional storm drains are the norm. King County Council Member Larry Phillips Chairs the Regional Water Quality Committee. He joined the tour. Phillips says water quality is far better than fifty years ago, but needs to get better. Last year the EPA mandated cities draft storm water permits that require all new development to become low impact. “THE TRICK IS TO COME UP WITH THE MONEY AND IT’S A TOUGH TIME TO BE INCREASING SEWER RATES TO DO SO. BUT WE HAVE A FEDERAL MANDATE NOW. WE HAVE TO FIND A WAY TO MEET IT.”  Phillips says he’s encouraged by the community’s ethic when it comes to water quality. “WE TAKE IT VERY SERIOUSLY AND PEOPLE ARE WILING TO PAY FOR CLEAN WATER AND TAKING CARE OF OUR ENVIRONMENT SO WE’LL FIND A WAY TO ADDRESS THIS INCLUDING THIS MONEY.”

 

One economic solution favored by the environmental community is a piece of state legislation called “Working for Clean Water”. It will be re-introduced to the legislature in 2011. The bill would create 3,000 state jobs to retrofit streets and water systems from Olympia to Bellingham. Funding would come from petroleum companies to take the burden off cash strapped cities. -0-

 

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Piece Description

 

Narration: With Green Acre Radio this is Martha Baskin. Creek SndEfx. At the mouth of Piper’s Creek in Carkeek Park, a crowd gathers around Bill Malatinsky. Neighborhood activists, elected officials and a water quality planner are here to learn more about the biggest threat facing Puget Sound – run off from roads, land and hard surfaces, run off that washes into the Sound when it rains. “SO FAR AS PUGET SOUND STORMWATER POLLUTION GOES, THE BIGGEST CONTRIBUTORS ARE TRANSPORTATION, INDIVIDUAL DRIVERS, BOTH LEAKING OIL ONTO THE STREETS AND EVEN WHEN YOU DRIVE PARTICULATES ARE GOING UP INTO THE AIR AND EVENTUALLY RAINING DOWN AND GETTING INTO OUR WATERWAYS.” Malatinsky is an educator with the City’s Restore Our Waters Team. “THE OTHER IS RESIDENTIAL. ALOT OF THAT HAS TO DO WITH PESTICIDE USE, PEOPLE OVERFERTILIZING, OVERTREATING GARDENS AND YARDS.” He’s leading a tour organized by People for Puget Sound, a non-profit dedicated to a clean and healthy Sound. The goal is to engage more people to find solutions on how to do it.

 

The city’s complex sewer system and the way sewage is handled compounds the problem. The system was built before regional population exploded and before run off was recognized as the marine ecosystem’s #1 threat. Some sewage and storm water pipes are combined, others separated. Treatment plants were designed to handle household waste from sewage pipes but not motor oil or oil running down streets into storm drains. Last year an estimated four hundred combined sewer pipes overflowed. County pipes released some 690 million gallons of untreated run off. Again Bill Malatinsky: “SOME OF THEM GO DIRECTLY INTO THE SOUND DEPENDING ON THE HILLS AROUND THEM, INTO LAKE UNION, LAKE WASHINGTON. RIGHT ON THE SHORE HERE, THERE ARE SEWAGE PIPES THAT RUN UNDER NORTH BEACH.”

 

The group walks uphill to a pair of treatment plants named Twin Pipes. “ALL THE STORM DRAINS AND ROOF DRAINS IN GREENWOOD, THE WATER COMING FROM THERE, COMES RIGHT OUT HERE INTO PIPERS CREEK.” I ask if the tar smell is primarily fossil fuels. “YEAH IT’S ROAD RUN OFF, IT’S PARTICULATES FROM PEOPLE’S EXHAUST. CAUSE IT COLLECTS OVER TIME. IT’S NOT JUST ONE DAY. SAY THERE’S THIRTY DRY DAYS IN A ROW ALL THOSE PARTICULATES ARE SITTING ON THE GROUND BUT THEN AS SOON AS IT RAINS ALL THAT IS BEING WASHED RIGHT INTO HERE.”

 

Celina Karseotis with the Crown Hill Neighborhood Association has been working to restore the creek’s water quality, for both people and the salmon who spawn here. She says most people don’t realize that run off on streets flows directly into the creek. When people work on their cars they don’t think its impacting salmon. “AND I’M PRETTY SURE IF THEY WERE CORRECTED, BECAUSE THEY’RE ALL WANTING TO RESTORE THE CREEK, THEY MIGHT NOT DO THAT.” Put cardboard underneath your car, says Bill Malatinsky. Better yet, work on cars in a garage and contain the oil there. Runoff can contribute to low oxygen levels. The most common pollutants linked to reduced oxygen levels are chemical fertilizers which contain high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus. When they wash into waterways they promote algae. During daylight, algae increases oxygen saturation, but at night the same algae take oxygen from the water. Fish kills are not just happening in Hood Canal. At Piper’s Creek 56% of Coho salmon die before they can lay their eggs.

 

The group continues uphill until exiting the park at Northwest 3rd and 107th. This is the good news part of the story. Several years ago the City installed a natural drainage system here, roadside trenches covered in native plants that absorb storm water and pollutants. The approach, says Malatinsky, saw a 99% reduction in storm water coming from the neighborhood. “PLANTS THROUGH BIOFILTRATION CAN TAKE UP ANYTHING THAT’S CARBON BASED SO THEY CAN TAKE OUT A LOT OF PETROLEUM OUT OF STORM WATER AND ALSO THEY CAN TAKE OUT SOME HEAVY METALS LIKE COPPER AND ZINC.”

 

The bad news is the number of green infrastructure or low impact development projects are few. Paved surfaces and traditional storm drains are the norm. King County Council Member Larry Phillips Chairs the Regional Water Quality Committee. He joined the tour. Phillips says water quality is far better than fifty years ago, but needs to get better. Last year the EPA mandated cities draft storm water permits that require all new development to become low impact. “THE TRICK IS TO COME UP WITH THE MONEY AND IT’S A TOUGH TIME TO BE INCREASING SEWER RATES TO DO SO. BUT WE HAVE A FEDERAL MANDATE NOW. WE HAVE TO FIND A WAY TO MEET IT.”  Phillips says he’s encouraged by the community’s ethic when it comes to water quality. “WE TAKE IT VERY SERIOUSLY AND PEOPLE ARE WILING TO PAY FOR CLEAN WATER AND TAKING CARE OF OUR ENVIRONMENT SO WE’LL FIND A WAY TO ADDRESS THIS INCLUDING THIS MONEY.”

 

One economic solution favored by the environmental community is a piece of state legislation called “Working for Clean Water”. It will be re-introduced to the legislature in 2011. The bill would create 3,000 state jobs to retrofit streets and water systems from Olympia to Bellingham. Funding would come from petroleum companies to take the burden off cash strapped cities. -0-