By Meghan McLaughlin
September marks the start of Puget Sound Starts Here Month when the city of Bothell teams up with hundreds of organizations across Puget Sound to challenge its residents to a simple action to keep the environment healthy.
The purpose of this program is to raise awareness in the local community about stormwater and how what goes down a storm drains ultimately ends up in local streams, rivers and the Puget Sound.
“We have a lot of local champions here,” said Christi Cox, surface water program coordinator for outreach and education for the city of Bothell. “People want to share the message, not just this month, but year-round.”
Cox specifically mentioned working with organizations Friends of North Creek Forest, Whale Scout and the Shelton View Forest, which helps in the Forest Stewardship Association. She said they are champions of preaching restoration efforts.
Students from the University of Washington Bothell have contributed research to this year’s focus for Puget Sound Starts Here Month. The students found a significant amount of the pollution came from car issues. As tires begin to break down, the particles fly off into storm drains. Cox said that car leaks make their way into storm drains with the frequent rain in the Pacific Northwest. Car-washing soap runoff is also damaging to streams.
“All of these car-related things add up,” Cox said. “So that’s why we wanted to put a focus on that this year.”
Puget Sound Starts Here began around 2007, according to Cox. The program also educates students about what they can do to keep their environment safe and healthy, which Cox believes is highly effective when students bring home those behaviors to their families.
“Spreading awareness about the difference between a storm drain and a sewer system, that’s the main key for getting people to understand,” Cox said. “A lot of times, people don’t realize that what goes in the storm drain does not go to a treatment plant. It’s not like the sewer system. Once you explain that, you see this ‘aha moment’ on their face, they’re like, ‘Oh, okay, now I know that.'”
Beyond September, Cox said there are usually many best management practices the city of Bothell promotes throughout the year through social media and newsletters. They highlight one behavior community members can incorporate into their lives each month.
According to Cox, the pandemic threw a wrench in the city’s ability to reach some of its target audiences. Usually, Cox and her team would be at parks, dog parks and teaching younger audiences what they can do.
“It’s been hard to adapt the outreach,” Cox said. “I really look forward to when we can be face to face with people again.”
Three things to keep in mind for the remainder of the month are making sure to properly inflate tires, fixing car leaks as soon as possible, and washing cars safely.