Equinox “Industrial Strength” Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) demonstration site improves water quality in the Duwamish Valley

Sampling water that’s been filtered through an Oyster Shell Cistern (above) and a Grattix box below. Photo Credit: Cari Simson / ECOSS.

Right now, we all need to be sharing good news, especially related to our local water quality. ECOSS and Equinox Studios are proud to announce that after only six months since installation, Phase 1 of the Equinox “Industrial Strength” Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) Demonstration site is actively improving water quality flowing off private property. The Grattix systems (rain gardens in boxes) installed on Equinox’s “Living Room” and “Factory” buildings in late 2019 are already showing success – ECOSS’ water sampling showed these systems reduced zinc in rainwater runoff by 70 to 99% at three downspout locations.

Phase 1 of the Equinox GSI site, built in early 2020, includes three Grattix systems, two oyster shell cisterns and three kinds of permeable pavements. ECOSS, in partnership with Equinox Studios, seeks to provide education and inspiration for businesses and other landowners who want to improve water quality on their properties. For many in dense urban areas, small or compact properties are not suitable for rain gardens, and native soils may be contaminated or have saturated groundwater. Grattix and oyster-shell systems are downspout filters, which allow runoff to flow through plants, soil, rock layers, or used oyster shells to remove copper, zinc and other contaminants. GSI installations also reduce flooding risk as downspout water flows slowly through permeable materials or surfaces rather than accumulate on hard concrete surfaces.

Gardens of Gusto vegetated wall and detail. Photo Credit: Cari Simson / ECOSS.

These systems are relatively easy and affordable to install. ECOSS and its partners can provide technical support and resources for design, construction and maintenance. Please reach out to ECOSS (csimson@ecoss.org) if you are interested in learning more.

This phase also completed the Gardens of Gusto, a vegetated wall, or vertical garden, on the exterior of the Factory building at the Equinox complex. The vertical garden will add native plants and hearty vines to the block, irrigated by large cisterns capturing water from the roof.

Learn more about the GSI installations at Equinox

More exciting business-tailored stormwater solutions and education are coming. Here’s a preview of ECOSS’ plans for the Equinox demonstration site.

  • Two Grattix-tainers (giant Grattix and planter in one 20′ recycled shipping container box) for the Livingroom will complete all the filtration for the 3000 square foot Livingroom building.
  • Two Equibox (Grattix on top of a cistern in one 20′ recycled shipping container box) will capture and treat 7500 square feet of the Factory roof and provide the Gardens of Gusto with irrigation.
  • Additional water quality testing in June 2021 to replicate the sampling plan
  • Provide businesses in the area with technical and planning support to install Grattixes, Oyster Shell cisterns or permeable paving systems.

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Additional support for the Equinox GSI project was provided by the Boeing Company, King County Flood Control District, and BNSF. Funding for sampling provided by 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 for the Oyster Shell Barrels and interpretive signage. Thank you, Aspect Consulting, PureBlue and Equinox Studios for supporting this work through in-kind contributions of time.

Measuring the impact of “Industrial Strength” Green Stormwater Infrastructure

On a rainy summer day, ECOSS staff put on their best protective gear and headed to Equinox Studios in Georgetown. Why a rainy day? To conduct water quality sampling of rainwater flowing off the roofs and measure the effectiveness of recently installed Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI). The Equinox “Industrial Strength” GSI project is a demonstration site to showcase the utility of nature-based systems in removing contaminants from stormwater and in protecting local waterbodies.

ECOSS staff sampling water from the catch basin near Equinox Studios. Photo Credit: Cari Simson / ECOSS.

Pollution in stormwater can originate as air pollution from many sources that falls on buildings and the ground when it rains. Environmental solutions like Grattix boxes and oyster shell barrels are meant to reduce pollution carried by stormwater into nearby water bodies. To put that to the test, ECOSS is measuring changes in turbidity levels, total suspended solids, total and dissolved metals (e.g. zinc and copper), and pH after the installation of GSI at Equinox.

Equinox Studios is located at the corner of 5th Avenue South and South Michigan Street, a high traffic area near the 1st Avenue Bridge, Boeing Field, the Port of Seattle, I-5. Despite the ongoing COVID-19 crisis at the time of this writing, the site hasn’t seen any reduction in vehicle traffic due to an influx of detoured traffic through Georgetown upon closure of the West Seattle Bridge.

Sampling water that’s been filtered through a Grattix box. Photo Credit: Cari Simson / ECOSS.

In June of 2019, ECOSS sampled in four locations from Equinox’s roofs and nearby roadway to obtain a baseline for water quality prior to GSI construction. Returning to the site in 2020, ECOSS sampled water that traveled through roof downspouts before and after Grattix box and oyster-shell cistern installations to measure how these GSI improve water quality. ECOSS also sampled a nearby roadway and catch basin again to investigate the impact of new permeable pavement and asphalt. With the help of ARI labs in Tukwila, who will conduct the lab analyses, ECOSS looks forward to evaluating the effect of Equinox’s GSI installations. Stay tuned for the results!

Learn more about GSI projects at Equinox Studios

Funding for sampling provided by 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.

Also of note, a vertical garden has been installed on the exterior of one of the buildings at the Equinox Complex. The vertical garden will add native plants and hearty vines to the block and will be watered through cisterns capturing water from the nearby roof. For more information and to see a video of the installation, go here.

Multicultural outreach leads to clean water and green jobs

Polluted stormwater runoff is the greatest source of pollution to the Puget Sound and other local water bodies. This pollution not only threatens local wildlife like salmon and orcas, but also surrounding communities, such as those neighboring the Duwamish River, where water is central to their cultures.

The critical need for clean water is why Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) is one of ECOSS’ core impact areas.

A recent report from King County and Seattle Public Utilities highlighted recent accomplishments in green stormwater solutions, including features of ECOSS’ work in multicultural outreach, green career pathways development and industrial-scale stormwater solutions.

Check out the report!

To learn more about how ECOSS is supporting diverse communities and businesses in adopting green stormwater solutions, check out the projects page.

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, BNSF 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.

Build a Grattix in an afternoon!

ECOSS and Equinox Studios invite you to Learn and Do!

Come learn how to make a Grattix box downspout filter to reduce water pollution. Then help construct a Grattix box and install it under a roof downspout. Grattix boxes and other roof downspout filters bring the benefits of rain gardens to paved areas at homes and businesses and can work in small spaces. The design is particularly effective for removing zinc from galvanized roof surfaces.

Tools and refreshments provided.

In 2018, ECOSS partnered with Equinox Studios to develop a first of-its-kind, large-scale industrial GSI demonstration site. The site, now building Phase 1, will showcase new and emerging industrial GSI solutions that can be adopted by any industrial or manufacturing business. When finished, Equinox GSI will collect stormwater from 62,000 square feet of roof space and passively filter 1.3 million gallons of water annually.

For more information, or to schedule a site visit or tour, please contact at info@ecoss.orgor (206) 767-0432, ext. 1001.

Cover photo credited to Aspect Consulting.