A stormwater solution “on the half shell”

By Cari Simson, Stormwater Programs Director

Through the Equinox demonstration site, ECOSS is raising awareness of innovative business solutions that mitigate flooding and stormwater pollution.

On a cold, overcast November morning, staff from the Port of Seattle, King County, ECOSS and local RainWise contractor Stone Soup Gardens met at Equinox Studios to learn how to install cisterns with oyster shells inside as downspout filters. The Port of Seattle has been using oyster shells on their properties for about seven years to improve water quality. Now, they’re sharing their technical expertise with others. The event included all the steps to site, install and maintain cisterns with oyster shells.

Uroosa Fatima, an ECOSS Multicultural Outreach Manager, gets hands-on experience with constructing an oyster barrel. Photo Credit: William Chen / ECOSS.

Areas with a lot of vehicle traffic can produce elevated levels of copper in stormwater, which is harmful to fish and other aquatic species. One way that copper is introduced to stormwater is from vehicle brake pads, which produce brake dust. Oyster shells have shown promising results for removing dissolved copper from water by adsorption inside the barrel — as water flows through the barrel, copper adheres to the oyster shells, which is filtered out of the water.

In the summer of 2019, ECOSS tested for baseline levels of zinc, copper and other contaminants in roof downspouts prior to Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) installations, and will test again in 2020. ECOSS seeks additional businesses to adopt these solutions and can provide technical support. For more information, or to schedule a site visit or tour, contact info@ecoss.org.

Learn more about the Equinox demonstration site

Come check out the Equinox “industrial-strength” GSI demonstration site in person on December 14th at the Equinox Very Open House! 6pm-late!

Gratitude for Grattix boxes

Stormwater runoff is the #1 source of Puget Sound pollution. There are multiple contributing factors and chief among them are the toxicants that are ubiquitous in urban environments, such as metals deposited on roads by vehicles, air pollution deposited on roofs and more. Such toxicants are picked up by the rain on the way to storm drains that flow untreated into our water bodies. And during large storms, the rains can overwhelm sewer systems. Consequently, the polluted stormwater doesn’t reach treatment plants and flow untreated into local water bodies.

Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) is an effective solution to mitigating stormwater pollution. Cisterns lower the volume of water entering stormwater systems during storms and lower the risk of overflowing combined sewer systems. Rain gardens slow the flow of rainwater while naturally filtering toxins. Programs such as the RainWise rebate program have increased access to stormwater solutions for residents throughout Seattle.

ECOSS seeks to broaden the acceptance of GSI in our region by providing technical services for businesses to help reduce their stormwater pollution. The Duwamish River manufacturing and industrial area has many businesses that rely on their location to do their work. During large storms, these businesses are not only dealing with operational costs in the case of flooding problems, but also potentially responsible for pollution that their properties contribute to the Duwamish River.

Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) for industrial businesses can help with both flooding concerns and reduce pollution from contaminants that land on rooftops and wash into storm drains. But most businesses have space limitations and operational needs, and the solutions need to be affordable and scalable. Businesses may not know about the breadth of GSI solutions that are possible on their properties, which is where ECOSS can be of service!

Multicultural contractors apply their knowledge of residential GSI solutions to Grattix box construction. Photo Credit: William Chen / ECOSS.

In 2018, ECOSS partnered with Equinox Studios to develop a first of-its-kind, large-scale GSI demonstration site in an industrial area. Equinox Studios, located in the industrial heart of Georgetown, attracts over 18,000 visitors per year and is ideally situated to promote GSI to local industrial businesses and communities. The site showcases emerging and cost-effective GSI solutions that can be easily adopted by property owners seeking to control polluted runoff. When finished in 2020, the Equinox installation will collect stormwater from 62,000 square feet of roof space and passively filter 1.3 million gallons of water annually. ECOSS  Equinox Studios represents an immense potential to reduce toxicants from polluting local waters.

Grattix boxes use varying sizes of sediment to filter stormwater. Photo Credit: William Chen / ECOSS.

One of the innovative GSI solutions that are being featured at Equinox is the Grattix box. Essentially a rain garden in a box, the Grattix allows businesses to benefit from the filtration capabilities of rain gardens without having to dig up their property. These nature-based roof downspout filters remove zinc, copper and other pollutants from roof runoff, and can work in small spaces.

And what better way to learn about Grattix boxes than to go through the process of building one! Using Port of Vancouver’s design as a guide, ECOSS staff, multicultural contractors and members of the public convened at Equinox to learn by doing. From constructing PVC-pipe draining systems to planting native shrubs, just one afternoon of teamwork led to the completion of four complete Grattix boxes.

The event was a triple win for Equinox Studios, the contractors who have added Grattix systems to their repertoire, and the public who will be able to learn about new stormwater solutions.

These Grattix boxes are only the beginning of ECOSS’ vision for an industrial-scale demonstration site. Other cutting-edge solutions for stormwater management to look forward to are permeable pavement, vegetated walls, large cisterns and more. Stay tuned!

Learn more about the Equinox demonstration site!

Come to the Equinox Very Open House on December 14th at 6 pm. ECOSS and others will be at the event and can provide tours and information.

Thank you Aspect Consulting, PureBlue and Equinox Studios for supporting this work.

Additional support for the Equinox GSI project was provided by the Boeing Company, King County Flood Control District, and the Puget Sound Stewardship and Mitigation fund, a grant making fund created by the Puget Soundkeeper Alliance and administered by the Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment. The Port of Seattle provided in-kind contributions of materials.

Rain can’t stop the trick or tree-ting!

Rain has returned to Seattle. For some, that means curling up inside with a hot mug of coffee. For others, it’s an opportunity to be environmental stewards!

Recently, hundreds of volunteers gathered across 19 different sites to celebrate Orca Recovery Day with the Duwamish Alive Coalition. This is the ancestral land and waters of the Coast Salish peoples, including the Duwamish Tribe. They are the first stewards of the land and continue to care for this region.

ECOSS hosted one of the Duwamish Alive sites in partnership with Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust, inviting communities of color to plant trees at a restoration site in the Rainier Valley. At this site alone, volunteers planted a total of 230 trees and shrubs! Check out some photos from the event below:

Located at the headwaters of the Duwamish River, transforming this site from a blackberry-dominated landscape to one with a diversity of native plants will promote water quality in the Duwamish River, leading to healthier salmon populations and subsequently healthier orca populations. And volunteers have the chance to see that transformation from beginning to end, as this space has had very little recent care. This humble space has the potential to be an inspiration for diverse communities to be lifelong environmental stewards!

Learn more about how ECOSS empowers environmental stewards!

Thank you to Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust and the Duwamish Alive Coalition for your partnership and the Rotary Club for your support!

Vicky Raya: Green career pathways

ECOSS recently held its second PINKAPALOOZA Block Party, celebrating businesses and diverse communities that are being empowered to be more environmentally sustainable. At the celebration, ECOSS invited employees, former and current, as well as community members to tell their environmental stories. Here is one of the night’s stories:

Vicky Raya is a former ECOSS employee who now works as a racial equity advisor for Seattle Public Utilities. Photo Credit: Rachel Lee.

“Hi, my name is Vicky Raya and I am a former ECOSS employee. I was born and raised in Los Angeles, and both my parents are from Mexico. This means my first language is Spanish and I consider myself Chicana, or bicultural.

Prior to ECOSS, I worked as an informal science educator and then trained other educators who wanted to better engage and support girls and youth of color in STEM.

Ironically, although my work was meaningful, my work environments were rarely diverse. I was often the sole person of color among my peers, and although I was not consciously aware of it, I was working very hard to fit into a normative professional culture that did not reflect my own, and that in many ways, wasn’t fully prepared to recognize my isolation.

I always felt a little out of step with my peers and assumed I had to work harder than others to meet an imaginary standard. This dissonance and lack of connection eventually forced me to make a huge career shift which, not coincidentally, led to a lot of healing.

I could not have taken a better step toward healing than coming to ECOSS, where my role was to learn about the communities we wanted to serve and then apply strategies to make environmental education fun, relevant and purposeful.

The sense of ease and community I experienced at ECOSS was so welcome and needed, and it became the springboard to my current role as racial equity advisor at Seattle Public Utilities.

And that’s the ECOSS story I want to tell. How this organization hires from the communities it serves. It nurtures and develops confidence, language and professional skills, then prepares staff for future careers.

There’s a lot of talk about the need to diversify the environmental sector, which is true for government, private and nonprofit organizations. On the one hand, it’s expensive and difficult for ECOSS to develop and lose talent. On the other hand, ECOSS has many well-placed friends. I don’t know any other organization that has such loyal former staff.

Who here tonight is a former ECOSS employee?”

To which, dozens of hands sprang up around the venue, from recent alumni stretching all the way back to ECOSS’ first executive director 25+ years ago. Vicky went on to say:

“And while we’ve moved on to other organizations, we are ambassadors for equitable workplaces, and we demonstrate the strength of learning from differences. We are bicultural and often bilingual (and trilingual), we know the joy in embracing each other’s differences with appreciation, generosity and humor.

Thank you ECOSS for the opportunities you gave us. Although small, ECOSS punches above its weight in workforce development.”

Thank you Vicky for being part of the family and for continuing to blaze the environmental equity trail you started with ECOSS.

Support additional green career pathways with a donation

Whether it is $5 or $50, your support will help promote champions of environmental equity and justice. Check out other stories from PINKAPALOOZA here.

Joycelyn Chui: Leading by example

ECOSS recently held its second PINKAPALOOZA Block Party, celebrating businesses and diverse communities that are being empowered to be more environmentally sustainable. At the celebration, ECOSS invited employees, former and current, as well as community members to tell their environmental stories. Here is one of the night’s stories:

Joycelyn Chui is one of ECOSS’ multicultural outreach managers, working to empower businesses and communities of color to be more environmentally sustainable. Photo Credit: Rachel Lee.

“大家好! 中秋節快樂!

Hi everyone! My name is Joycelyn. I was born and raised in Hong Kong. I’m trilingual in Cantonese, Mandarin and English.

My father was the one who inspired me to become an environmentalist. Although Hong Kong is known for being a financial metropolis, there were still a few clean beaches where we would go swimming in. My love for the ocean led me to become a fisheries biologist at University of Washington.

Despite having an environmental science degree, as an immigrant, I lacked a lot of knowledge on how people interact with the environment here in Pacific Northwest, such as cleaning drinking water, sorting waste or using green cleaning solutions. Clearly, there was a disconnect.

But the transformation began when I started a career at ECOSS. I learned how to live a greener life and was inspired to educate people around me. Especially those who don’t natively speak English because most of the time, they just simply don’t know what is the right thing to do.

I believe the strongest kind of leadership is to lead by example, where people around you will be influenced and empowered to lead themselves.

Photo Credit: Char Davies.

The first Chinese restaurant I served when I started working was very resistant to change. It took more than a couple visits and education until they finally agreed to set up food waste collection in their kitchen and became compliant with Seattle’s solid waste regulations. A month later, I received a call. It was the restaurant owner. He asked if I can help him set up food waste collection at home. I was really pleased to see him taking initiative to lead himself and his family to become better stewards of the environment we all share. Clients like him are my motivation to continue my environmental education work.

ECOSS is not simply providing environmental solutions. We are building trust with communities. A lot of our clients have become ambassadors of our mission.

When you support ECOSS, you support a healthier environment through behavior change like the restaurant owner. You also support building a new generation of environmentalists like me. Thank you ECOSS for helping me embark on a career I feel passionate about.

ECOSS is making changes — One step at a time, one community at a time, one person at a time. Together, we are overcoming barriers to cleaner water, equitable communities and healthy salmon populations.”

Thank you Joycelyn for being an environmental leader and bringing your passion to ECOSS.

Support the growth of environmental leaders with a donation

Whether it is $5 or $50, your support will help promote champions of environmental equity and justice. Check out other stories from PINKAPALOOZA here.

Yug Dabadi: Empowering communities

ECOSS recently held its second PINKAPALOOZA Block Party, celebrating businesses and diverse communities that are being empowered to be more environmentally sustainable. At the celebration, ECOSS invited employees, former and current, as well as community members to tell their environmental stories. Here is one of the night’s stories:

Yug Dabadi works for the Bhutanese Community Resource Center (BCRC). Partnerships with other community-based organizations ensures that ECOSS’ education and outreach is culturally-relevant. Photo Credit: Rachel Lee.

“नमस्ते, मेरो नाम युग दबाडी हो र म भूटानबाट |

Hi everyone! My name is Yug Dabadi, and I am a refugee from Bhutan.

To be born and grow up in Bhutan was fun. I spent my childhood days walking miles in bare foot, walking uphill, running downhill, and jumping with the little kite we made out of bamboo bark. My little legs did just fine, my lungs were strong.

I attended some years of school in Bhutan. Every single day I walked five miles to school.  This was normal to me. One day while returning home from school, I saw a man carrying a cow on his back by himself. His cow fell on the creek and could not move. That time I only wanted to be as strong as him. I asked my dad how people can be that strong, he replied smiling “we drink water from the mountains”.  It did not make much sense to me that time but now I think mountains and forests are our health. My dad had learnt that by experiencing good, I learn by reading and experiencing bad.

While in refugee camps in Nepal, everything was scarce. I saw locals felling trees and steal woods. Hot summers, monsoon floods, and drought were what I saw. While in Kathmandu, air pollution was extreme. Kathmandu was dusty with unmanaged garbage and sewer leaking on the roads. There was scarcity of water, and people drank bottled water. It was a new thing to me, in Bhutan water from creeks, rivers or springs and city supply were safe to drink.

Photo Credit: Rachel Lee.

As someone who once lived in a pristine environment and has studied graduate level microbiology, I can see what damage we as human race is doing to the environment. I wanted to take responsibility and help in whatever ways I can. ECOSS has helped me do that.

The Bhutanese Community Resource Center and ECOSS have been partners for four years. Together, we have taken hundreds of our young people to the mountains and forests. Like me, they spent most of their lives in refugee camps and only knew about nature from the stories of our elders. ECOSS has helped our community connect with nature through many experiences like fishing, camping, planting trees, habitat restoration. And as we speak, we have a group out in the mountains learning about foraging for seasonal edibles and wild berries.

ECOSS’ New Arrivals program improves lives and connects immigrants and refugees to their new environment. It has helped us change from observers to participants, and now stewards. We care and want to do our part for our shared environment. Thank you ECOSS for helping us find our home in Washington.

Thank you everyone for believing in this organization and the good it does in the world.”

Thank you Yug for sharing your story. Your success inspires ECOSS to continue promoting access to environmental sustainability for all.

Support culturally-centered community empowerment with a donation

Whether it is $5 or $50, your support will help promote champions of environmental equity and justice. Be on the lookout for the night’s other stories!

Rain, rain, come this way

By Cari Simson, Stormwater Programs Director

Rain has returned to Seattle and with it, the acute awareness of the region’s pollution challenges. Recently, the Duwamish River was declared unsafe due to a sewage spill. Spills like this have repercussions for swimming, fishing and other aquatic activities and communities are not always made aware of the dangers. While this particular spill was resolved in just a day, the incident reminds us why stormwater pollution is Puget Sound’s #1 source of pollution.

The size of the Georgetown Wet Weather Treatment Plant reflects the magnitude of the stormwater pollution challenge. Photo Credit: Cari Simson / ECOSS.

At the same time, these spills underline the importance of wastewater treatment solutions. Jacobs Engineering invited ECOSS to tour the site of the upcoming King County Georgetown Wet Weather Treatment Plant with the entire design and construction team.

Located on S. Michigan Street and 4th Avenue, the Georgetown Wet Weather Treatment Plant includes the construction of a combined sewer overflow (CSO) wet weather treatment station between the Brandon Street and South Michigan Street Regulator Stations, related pipes and a new outfall structure to release the treated water into the Duwamish River.

King County began on-site work in April 2017 and expects to finish construction in 2022. When constructed, the Georgetown station will treat up to 70 million gallons of combined rain and wastewater a day that would otherwise have discharged directly to the Duwamish without treatment during storm events. Right now, heavy rains can fill up the city’s sewer pipes, sending polluted runoff and sewage into the river, causing harm to wildlife and human health.

It was fascinating for ECOSS staff to see in-the-ground progress that shows utility investment in these types of large projects. ECOSS works with industry along the Duwamish River on innovative solutions to reduce stormwater pollution. Seeing other examples is not only inspiring, but also a great opportunity to share ideas.

Be on the lookout for news on ECOSS’ industrial-scale stormwater solutions, coming soon!

See more on how ECOSS works with industry to mitigate stormwater pollution

🎉 Thank you for celebrating with us at PINKAPALOOZA! 🐟

Our deepest gratitude to you for joining us at our PINKAPALOOZA Block Party this year!

As we reflect on the inspiring night, we constantly return to the community of amazing people who gathered together to celebrate the return of pink salmon.

Collectively, we raised over $97,000 to support sustainable businesses, equitable communities and a thriving environment! This is an amazing achievement in its own right, by which we are humbled. It is also an opportunity for an even greater achievement.

We have a chance to make ECOSS history. Will you help push ECOSS over $100,000 in annual donations for the first time ever in its 25+ year history? Every dollar counts.

Help us shatter the donation record!

Check out some of the highlights from the night:

Photos were captured by our wonderful volunteer photographers Char Davies and Rachel Lee. Find more inspiring photos here on our Facebook page.

Group photo of current and former ECOSS staff.

Thank you again for your support! We hope you came away from the night inspired and we look forward to seeing you again at the next PINKAPALOOZA Block Party in 2021!

Your ECOSS Family

#ThrowbackThursday: PINKAPALOOZA 2017

PINKAPALOOZA returns on September 14!

Named after the pink salmon that return to Washington rivers every other year, ECOSS’ biennial fundraiser celebrates the environmental sustainability of diverse communities and businesses. Check out these photos from the last event in 2017 to see just how unique the fundraiser is!

Don’t miss out on this multicultural celebration and opportunity to support environmental equity.

Buy tickets here

This celebration belongs to the entire community. To increase the event’s accessibility, we’re offering tickets on a sliding scale. Our hope is that attendees who can afford to contribute more will help sponsor those who cannot.

Can’t make it this year? You can still support ECOSS by making a tax-deductible donation.

First Trailhead Direct trip of the season in the books!

Find yourself wanting to escape the city on weekends? Do you enjoy hiking? King County’s Trailhead Direct bus service offers a solution for accessing trails near the Greater Seattle Area and is in its third season of operation.

ECOSS partnered with King County Parks and The Wilderness Society last summer to conduct outreach on Trailhead Direct within communities of color. By leading trips with the Khmer, Bhutanese, Latinx and Korean communities, ECOSS helped build the case to expand Trailhead Direct services, which added stops in Tukwila and Renton this season.

Continuing the momentum, ECOSS is working with Chinese, Vietnamese, Latinx, Bhutanese and East African communities to access Trailhead Direct and nearby trailheads this summer.

Members of Hong Kong, Chinese and other Cantonese-speaking communities recently completed their trip to Issaquah Alps! Check out some photos from the trip:

Most of the Cantonese-speaking participants had not heard of Trailhead Direct before the ECOSS trip, despite being avid hikers. The cloudy morning skies gave way to lush greens as the group embarked up Margaret’s Way Trail. The hikers appreciated the fresh air and ample trees. They even encountered a garter snake on the way up.

Most Trailhead Direct bus stops feature this sign. Unfortunately, it is often missed by those who are unfamiliar. Photo Credit: Joycelyn Chui / ECOSS.

The trip was also an opportunity for diverse feedback. Finding the initial bus stop was a challenge with minimal Trailhead Direct signage at the Eastgate Park and Ride station. Combined with a premature bus departure, the group was forced to catch the following bus… which was practically full before the group of 17 could board.

Undaunted, the group ultimately made their way to the top of the Margaret’s Way Trail. Many commented that they would recommend Trailhead Direct to others despite the challenges they faced.

By now, many King County residents have heard about Trailhead Direct, especially those who regularly take public transit. But the banners, brochures and advertisements don’t naturally reach all residents. Non-English speakers and those who live farther away from transit corridors are much less likely to be exposed to Trailhead Direct.

Access to green spaces promotes individual health and community connections. ECOSS is dedicated to ensuring outdoors access extends to communities of color as well.

More stories on outdoors access here!