Thursday, August 11, 2011

Bellingham's newest green drain

On a recent bike ride along Whatcom Creek, in Bellingham, Washington, I was stopped by a construction project flagger, next to this roadside project. I asked the flagger what was being built, and she said "a green drain."

I like the idea of a green drain, but this is more accurately described as a stormwater treatment facility, or a drainage feature. How does it work? It slows down the water flowing off the road, and allows it a place to infiltrate into the ground. Before this feature was built, stormwater ran off the street, into a storm water catch basin or ditch, and flowed directly to Whatcom Creek.

The dark brown material in the foreground is soil high in organic matter - which will increase the absorption of common stormwater pollutants, such as oil & grease, sediment, and other compounds. Perhaps some of the stormwater runoff from the adjacent school bus facility will also end up in this treatment facility too, instead of flowing into the Creek.

Why is each new facility like this important? Stormwater is the number one source of pollution in urban areas of Western Washington. With each one of these new treatment facilities, our stormwater will be a little bit cleaner. This means Whatcom Creek, Squalicum Creek, Bellingham Bay, and all our other local streams will be cleaner. Thanks, City of Bellingham!

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