Measuring the impact of “Industrial Strength” Green Stormwater Infrastructure

On a rainy June 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 recent installation, go here.

A day of sparkling waters and shared reflection

Cedar River waterfall

A waterfall stills hikers with its magical light show. Photo Credit: Zacke Feller.

Written by Uroosa Fatima, Multicultural Outreach Manager

Living in Seattle, I find it hard not to think about water. Whether it’s twinkling at me from across the bridge or attacking me from the sky, water finds a way to get noticed every day. Surrounded by all these glamorous bodies, I sometimes overlook the city’s best water feature: tap water. A fresh, cool stream that flows reliably whenever we need it.

But why does the tap water here taste so good? The greater Seattle area gets its water supply from two systems, the South Fork Tolt River watershed and the much bigger Cedar River Municipal Watershed. Both of these regions are heavily protected areas and allow minimal access to humans. The watersheds are kept as pristine as possible, so the water requires minimal treatment. Additionally, Seattle is unique among urban American cities for not repeatedly recycling its tap water, which elsewhere leads to flat-tasting water.

Watershed model

Rangers teach the group about the watershed using a model of the region. Photo Credit: Zacke Feller.

Recently, I got the chance to go see the Cedar River Municipal Watershed on a hike organized by ECOSS in partnership with Seattle Public Utilities (SPU). The aim of this hike was to introduce some of Seattle’s newer communities to the watershed that feeds their drinking supply. The diverse group included members from the Vietnamese, Chinese, East African and Pakistani communities.

After meeting with the park rangers at Cedar River Educational Center and learning the rules of conduct, the hikers were driven up to the restricted municipal watershed. The watershed is divided into two basins, the larger Chester Morse Lake and the smaller Masonry Pool, which was created as a result of the Masonry Dam. Following the guides the group walked along parts of the dam and saw how the structure is used to generate electricity and regulate water flow.

We stopped over the dam to see how it was used to regulate water, and to take lots of pictures! Photo Credit: Zacke Feller.

During their trip, hikers learned more about the function, history and ecology of the watershed from the rangers guiding the excursion. 1.4 million people in the region, and countless iconic species like the Northern spotted owl, Chinook salmon and Grizzly bear depend on this basin for a constant and pristine supply of water. This led to lively discussions among the group and the guides facilitated by multilingual ECOSS coordinators on topics like long term regional season patterns, drought conditions, and the historic importance of the watershed to native tribes.

A lively discussion about the history, cultural importance and value of the watershed. Photo Credit: Zacke Feller.

At the end of the hike, the hungry group returned to the Educational Center for some Banh Mi sandwiches and rest. Many felt that the experience gave them a deeper understanding of where their drinking water comes from and what it takes to keep it clean.

 

Read about other work with New Arrivals!

Thank you Seattle Public Utilities for working with ECOSS to make this insightful trip possible!