Citizens in Bellingham are largely unaware of the effects of stormwater pollution and their contribution to it. Well, that’s about to change. One of the Baykeeper’s newest projects is the Neighborhood Clean Water Project. This project began last year, when RE Sources staff and interns collected data from several urban waterways that showed high levels of metals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) from stormwater outfalls that drain downtown areas of Bellingham. If you’re having difficulty tracking on what a stormwater outfall to the Bay looks like, here’s one of the big ones, at the terminus of C Street:
We chose to sample copper, zinc, and PAHs in stormwater because they are toxic to marine life, and because they are not routinely sampled by other agencies. PAHs are widespread, complex organic pollutants that are found in fossil fuels, and are formed by incomplete combustion of wood, coal, and diesel fuels. Like metals, they are common in urban stormwater and have been found in increasing concentrations in rapidly urbanizing areas. They are carcinogenic to laboratory animals and are acutely toxic to some fish species. Here’s our crew collecting samples from the C Street Stormwater Outfall. We’re all smiles, but this place is not easy to access, and the water smells terrible.
Last month we presented our findings to a group of engaged citizens from the Columbia, Lettered Streets, and Broadway Park neighborhoods. We asked for ideas about how to reduce stormwater pollution. We loved their ideas, and we’re running with them.
Idea #1: Get kids involved! 50 4th and 5th grade students labeled 60 storm drains in the Columbia neighborhood. These kids worked hard and are enthused about stormwater.
Idea #2: Get volunteers to become “stormwater stewards” in their neighborhoods. We’ve got three volunteers, and we’re headed out to talk with folks in the Columbia neighborhood this week. Look for folks wearing bright orange vests that say “Stormwater Steward
Idea #3: Present information about the Neighborhood Clean Water Project at neighborhood association meetings throughout the City. We’re on it – we’ve been to the Padden Creek Association Meeting, we’ve got dates for two more, and we’re looking for more opportunities.
Idea #4: Conduct “Don’t Drip and Drive Events” this summer. These are events where volunteers provide free car leak checks. We’re planning these events, and the City Stormwater staff will help us. Got ideas for locations?
Please share your ideas with us, and come to our next brainstorming meeting: Wednesday May 21, 5-6pm, at RE Sources.
Help us begin to stop this problem – we want your ideas! A work group is forming called the Stormwater Work Group. RE Sources will support this group by providing sample data, researching topics, leading discussions, and other tasks necessary to move forward with solutions.
In the first year, this project will focus on data collected from the C Street and Broadway Street outfalls on Whatcom and I & J Waterways, respectively. These outfalls drain portions of the Lettered Streets, Columbia, and Cornwall Park neighborhoods. RE Sources hopes to expand this project to include other urban watersheds in the years to come.
Interested in becoming a stormwater steward in your neighborhood? It's fun! For more information, contact Lee First