New program for youth centers the health of communities and the Duwamish River 

Many immigrant and indigenous communities in Seattle have fishing traditions, histories, and connections to the Duwamish River. The river is home to lots of marine life, but unfortunately is also heavily polluted, an EPA superfund site, making the fish unhealthy for human consumption. Salmon are the only fish that are safe to catch and eat from the Duwamish since they are migratory and do not solely reside in the river. Other species such as shellfish however, should not be consumed since they process large volumes of polluted water through their gills each day and can accumulate levels of bacteria that are dangerous for humans. In 2019, ECOSS partnered with the EPA and King County Public Health’s Community Health Advocacy teams to support communities and empower them with knowledge about the Duwamish to promote safe fishing practices. 

In 2023, ECOSS is revisiting this project through a new partnership with Public Health – Seattle & King County, this time focusing on a program for youth who live near the river. This after-school youth program will consist of educational as well as immersive experiences centering the health of our waterways and communities. Cindy Anh Thu Nguyen, ECOSS Program Manager, shared more about her vision for the project with us.  

I am excited about developing the curriculum for this program, because ECOSS has never really had a youth program like this before, and, in a way, I get to start from scratch and build something really unique and specific to this community. I also just came out of grad school and am looking forward to this opportunity to apply my own skills in environmental education, and practicing culturally sustaining pedagogy and sustaining cultural fishing practices within the community.  

 – Cindy Anh Thu Nguyen, ECOSS Program Manager 
The ECOSS team at the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery

The program will center the idea of forming connections to the land where the youth live and place-based learning. Field trips to immersive learning spaces like the Wing Luke Museum, as well as fishing trips, and other activities, will create opportunities for the youth to explore places they may have not been before. There is an emphasis on shared learning outside of the classroom, conversations with peers, and thinking about how they could play a part in promoting environmental change in their communities.  

Environmental Justice education is not currently the most accessible to marginalized youth and a program like this is really oriented to being open for, particularly, the youth who are living in these communities and living near the river. It not only provides an opportunity for them to earn a stipend and get community organizing experience, but it’s also a program that is about developing their leadership skills through the approach of helping them understand their connections to the river and the place in which they live on a deeper level. It’s very much about maintaining the sustainability and health of the Duwamish River, but also the well-being of their communities. 
In the end, the target audience for this project are people who are already fishing and pregnant mothers or youth who would be the most impacted in health if they were consuming contaminated seafood. I think youth involvement in this is really important because they’re really influential in their family and could educate their parents or their other family members. Oftentimes, they’re the ones that are sharing this information with their family first, so we, at ECOSS, are hoping to be the providers of that education.  

 – Cindy Anh Thu Nguyen, ECOSS Program Manager
View of the Duwamish River from Duwamish River People’s Park and Shoreline Habitat with Mt. Tahoma in the distance. Photo by Meagan Dwyer

We want to hear from youth about how we can develop a program that is relevant and empowering. ECOSS will be holding two focus groups on February 15 and February 21 at the Duwamish River Community Hub (8600 14th Ave S, Seattle, WA 98108) For more information and to view eligibility, visit this link.

This program was featured in the International Examiner! Read more here.

ECOSS’ 2021 Year in Review

Due to the pandemic, several projects were put on hold in 2020. Nevertheless, ECOSS persevered and continued to serve diverse communities and small businesses. 2021 was a year of growth for ECOSS, with greater female representation in management and promotions of people of color into senior leadership positions. And as public health restrictions loosened, ECOSS’ trusted approach of in-person outreach returned. ECOSS programming served 429 community members and 422 businesses in 2021! Check out the summary of the year in this printable summary sheet.

And take a deeper look at the year’s highlights below:

Stay up to date with ECOSS’ accomplishments by signing up for our newsletter and following ECOSS on Instagram and Facebook.

You can also support ECOSS and the environmental equity work we do by donating.

ECOSS’ Sustainable Futures Fest returns Oct 27-29

We at ECOSS loved sharing community and business success stories with you at 2020’s Sustainable Futures Fest. In case you missed it, you can check it out here. ECOSS’ Sustainable Futures Fest returns with more exciting activities in October that highlight how communities and businesses are empowered to be environmentally sustainable.

Tune in for free from your computer or phone each day at noon on Oct 27-29 to catch the festivities!

In solidarity,
ECOSS Family

ECOSS’ 2020 Impact Report

2020 was a unique year that laid bare the inequities that BIPOC communities face in not only environmental disparities, but also health disparities, access to information and more. The strengths that enable ECOSS to be a leader in environmental equity played a central role in response the COVID-19 pandemic: trusted relationships with frontline communities; shared culture and language; and bridges with industry, community and government.

ECOSS has served 170 businesses and 100 community members through its COVID outreach projects that address financial, technology and information gaps. Additionally, ECOSS continued to strive for its vision of thriving healthy communities despite the new challenges to outreach work. ECOSS’ environmental outreach served over 2,500 community members and business owners in 2020.

Donate to support ECOSS’ environmental equity work with frontline communities!

Check out the highlights from 2020 around environmental justice, clean water, clean energy and solid waste management:

You can also download a printable version here:

Green Stormwater Infrastructure massively improves water quality at Equinox Studios

In 2019, ECOSS and Equinox Studios co-created an “industrial strength” Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) demonstration site.  Prior to installing Grattix Boxes, oyster barrels and other GSI features, ECOSS sampled the stormwater to get a baseline understanding of the types of toxic heavy metals and other pollutants gathering on the roofs and pavement at Equinox Studios. Stormwater solutions filter out toxic heavy metals and other pollutants from rain water that collects on hard surfaces before entering local water bodies. These pollutants are harmful not only to aquatic wildlife, but also to the communities which border the polluted water bodies. So how have the GSI performed?

ECOSS returned to Equinox Studios in 2020 and 2021 to sample stormwater and see how the GSI impacted water quality. Although the team expected some reduction in heavy metals, the effectiveness of Grattix Boxes and oyster barrels was astounding. Here are some highlights:

  • In 2020, Grattix boxes on-average reduced zinc content by 70-90% compared to 2019 water sampling before they were installed
  • In 2021, Grattix boxes continued to perform, showing over 80% reduction in copper and zinc
  • At one Grattix box, stormwater was filtered from 1,700 micrograms of zinc per liter to 139 micrograms per liter – over a 90% reduction!
  • One downspout is connected to a Grattix Box and oyster barrel combination, reducing copper content by 88%, while zinc dropped to undetectable levels.

These types of GSI installations have helped industrial stormwater permitted businesses reduce their pollutant loads to below their permit benchmarks when maintained regularly, depending on the amount of pollutant they are managing.

ECOSS will continue to monitor these GSI installations and see how filtration power changes over time. The most recent sampling results showed that a combination of GSI systems could work synergistically to filter out heavy metals even better and is particularly useful for areas with greater metal loads. Repeated sampling will also help determine when the materials inside the GSI have to be cleaned or replaced.

Rain water that falls on and passes through the Equinox Studios site ultimately flows to the Duwamish River, which is a Superfund site and one of the most polluted water bodies in the United States. But ECOSS is showing how to mitigate some of that pollution with “industrial-strength” Green Stormwater Infrastructure.

Want to get a closer look at these stormwater solutions? ECOSS and Equinox Studios will be hosting an in-person, socially-distant, self-guided tour on April 24, 2-4pm, in celebration of Earth Day!

ECOSS clean water and environmental stewardship work was featured in the Seattle Times!

Increasing Access to Green Stormwater Infrastructure Through Language

Language is one of the greatest barriers immigrants and refugees face in accessing resources, services and solutions that improve health outcomes and environmental well-being. When it comes to promoting clean water in the Puget Sound region, one of the ways this barrier manifests is in language access to Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI).

Home rain garden installation, full of lush, green vegetation and framed by bricks.

Rain gardens not only add beauty to a property, but also filter pollution from stormwater.

GSI such as rain gardens, cisterns and permeable pavement help protect local waters from stormwater pollution. This infrastructure is a great way for homeowners to contribute to Puget Sound’s health. However, the process for scoping, installing and maintaining GSI can be daunting for those unfamiliar, especially if English is not a native language.

Thus, to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Earth Month, ECOSS staff have prepared three articles in Traditional Chinese, Spanish and Vietnamese:

Introduction to RainWise:

Rain garden maintenance:

In-language resources are one way that ECOSS is closing the racial inequity gap of environmental solutions.

Learn more about GSI outreach

ECOSS partners with Seattle Public Utilities and King County to increase access to the RainWise program and shape tools that deliver more equitable environmental solutions.