THE PENINSULA’S BIGGEST source of water pollution?

Storm water.

When rain falls on forests and meadows, trees and plants take up moisture. Roots slow the flow, allowing water to seep down and replenish streams and aquifers as lakes, ponds and marshes slowly fill.

Nature employs strategies from forest duff to soil microbes to store, use and reuse fresh water before it reaches the oceans.

Although Earth is a water planet, only 3 percent of its water is fresh; less than 1 percent is available to use.

Given wide areas, water slowly soaks into the ground — which works splendidly until lots of water falls on areas covered with impervious surfaces like highways and houses, driveways and parking lots.

Washing over asphalt, cement, packed dirt, fertilized fields and lawns, storm water picks up a nasty assortment of metals, pesticides, oil, grease, chemicals from plastics and vehicles and pet poop.

Half an inch of rain on a typical Walmart parking lot generates some 250,000 gallons of ick-laden storm water.

Across Jefferson and Clallam counties, rain follows countless paths, sometimes slowing and meandering to allow Nature to cleanse it before it flows into the ocean.

Pollution is so high that our beloved orcas, at the top of the food chain, become toxic waste when a carcass washes ashore.

In cities like Port Angeles, street drains funnel storm water into the city’s sewer system and ultimately to the water treatment plant.

That’s OK — until a big storm.

Then, storm water and sewage exceed the treatment plant’s capacity and everything overflows straight into the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

In Portland, Ore., its innovative “Green Streets” program transformed its storm sewer system into an eco-tourist attraction.

“When we started this 10 or 12 years ago, there was a lot of skepticism,” Dean Marriott, director of Portland’s Bureau of Environmental Services, told USA Today.

“Today, many cities are moving in this direction. People want to see how it’s done.”

Homeowners disconnected their gutter downspouts from the storm-water system — the cheapest way to improve storm-water quality — so water flows from rooftops to gardens and rain barrels.

Portland’s rooftop rain gardens cover 24 acres, capturing about 80 percent of its rainfall.

Savvy North Olympic Peninsula gardeners, like Kristina Lawrence, owner of Out On a Limb Landscape Services, already harvest water from their roofs.

Her Port Angeles home will be part of the June 26 Master Gardeners tour.

A quarter-inch of rain on a typical roof fills a 55-gallon barrel.

Want to disconnect your downspouts and use the free — and chemical-free — rain from your roof?

Portland offers a nifty online guide at http://tinyurl.com/cwmae7.

Yard drains and sump pumps may also be disconnected from sewer systems.

Homeowners can also reduce storm water by using permeable pavement for patios, driveways and walkways.

Permeable paving locks pollutants in the soil while allowing water seepage to recharge ground water. Such built-in stormwater management usually costs less than impervious pavement plus other storm ­water systems.

Managing storm water at its source, often called low impact development, uses a site’s natural features and rain gardens, swales and strategic plantings.

Many communities are examining LID guidelines for new development and retrofitting what’s already there, motivated by more than a simple desire to provide clean water.

The Environmental Protection Agency is starting to issue specific stormwater quality standards.

Clallam County’s new Stormwater Work Group is meeting on the second and fourth Thursdays in April and May.

Interested people are welcome to attend this week’s meeting, Thursday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Peninsula College, 1502 E. Lauridsen Blvd. in Port Angeles.

Bonus: This meeting includes a tour of the rain garden on the campus.


Diana Somerville, an author and science writer, lives in Clallam County and can be contacted via www.DianaSomerville.com.

Her column on sustainability and the environment on the North Olympic Peninsula appears every other Tuesday.

More in News

About 30 sailboats compete in the Port Townsend Sailing Association’s 33rd annual Shipwrights Regatta on Port Townsend Bay on Saturday. More of a fun event than a sailing competition, awards are given out during a pizza party afterward for the most navigationally challenged (Directional Helmet trophy) and for the “saltiest” boat and crew. (Steve Mullensky/for Peninsula Daily News)
Shipwrights Regatta

About 30 sailboats compete in the Port Townsend Sailing Association’s 33rd annual… Continue reading

The City of Sequim hosts 13 manufactured home/mobile home parks with 596 existing units and 786 approved dwelling units. City staff continue to look into zoning options that could protect these sites from redevelopment to help protect affordable housing options in the city. (City of Sequim)
Sequim extends its mobile home moratorium

City staff to work preserving manufactured housing option

Olympic Medical Center chief outlines efforts at improvements

Decreased number of travelers among them

Jay and Trudi Inslee wear red for #WearRedDay to support women’s heart health in 2022. (Jay Inslee)
Gov. Inslee reflects in his final year of three terms

On the second level of the white and gray marbled… Continue reading

Chris Johnson of Nordland-based Nordland Construction loads traffic drums onto a trailer as coworker Robert Bufford prepares to secure the load as the pair prepares to open the parking lot at Port Angeles City Pier to automobiles on Friday. The work was part of a project to improve storm drainage, replace damaged sidewalks and ADA ramps and mitigate shoreline erosion around the lot, which had been closed since early January. Tree replacement and other project detail work is expected to follow over the next few weeks.
City Pier parking open

Chris Johnson of Nordland-based Nordland Construction loads traffic drums onto a trailer… Continue reading

Sequim Citizen of the Year luncheon on Tuesday

Emiko Brock, Labbe, Olsen to be honored

EYE ON THE PENINSULA: Broadband, public health before county boards

Government meetings across North Olympic Peninsula

A pair of Clallam Transit buses sit at The Gateway Transit Center in Port Angeles in preparation for their fixed-route runs on Thursday. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)
Clallam Transit sees large rise in ridership

No issues seen with new zero-fare policy

Plans move ahead for Quilcene skate park

Jefferson County, volunteers seek grants

Peninsula College Foundation reports record levels of giving

Programs, students both recipients of funds

County to repave section of Carlsborg Road

Clallam County commissioners will consider awarding a contract for… Continue reading

A paving crew from Lakeside Industries replaces pavement on the Waterfront Trail and the entrance to the Port Angeles City Pier parking lot on Wednesday as part of a project to improve sidewalks and storm water drainage around the site. The project is expected to be substantially completed and the parking lot reopened by mid-March. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)
Port Angeles City Pier

A paving crew from Lakeside Industries replaces pavement on the Waterfront Trail… Continue reading