In August, Soundkeeper staff met with Delridge Neighborhood Development Association’s Emma Weissburg and a dozen youth interns to help clean up Lincoln Park in West Seattle. We learned about the connection between plastic pollution and stormwater pollution.
The team first talked about global plastic pollution threatening our waters, and the ubiquitous problem of microplastic pollution. Youth learned how plastics are made from petrochemicals (oil), and how only nine percent of all plastic has been recycled. We also talked about solutions. There are several key strategies to stop plastic pollution: ban the chemical or product and switch to safer alternatives; change the system so that the chemicals or products no longer cause harm; and clean up existing pollution. Soundkeeper uses all of these strategies to stop plastic pollution.
The youth then walked the shoreline and collected four pounds of trash. We saw lots of jellyfish and seaweed, including Turkish Towel, a species of seaweed in the family Gigartinaceae that looks and feels like, well, a towel!
The group then changed gears and had a walk-and-talk in the sunshine, heading south .25 miles to visit Cove Park. We learned about stormwater pollution, the number one source of toxic chemicals to Puget Sound. Soundkeeper’s Clean Water Program Director, Alyssa Barton, shared how scientists recently discovered a chemical in car tires, called 6PPD-quinone. This chemical has been killing coho salmon in our urban creeks and streams for decades. Tires contain hundreds of other chemicals, and are also one of the biggest sources of microplastic particles to our environment.
6PPD-quinone poses a huge risk to coho salmon. Soundkeeper’s own studies of coho prespawn mortality on Longfellow Creek showed that 91% of returning salmon died before spawning in 2021. It’s alarming, but we know how to stop coho prespawn mortality.
Everything Is Connected
Cove Park is a small community park wedged next to the Fauntleroy Ferry on its north side. King County’s Department of Natural Resources began stewarding the park in 2015, and it includes bioretention features estimated to treat (or remove pollution from) over 300,000 gallons of stormwater a year. Bioretention, if engineered correctly, has the potential to remove pollutants including 6PPD-quinone. Research shows that it’s the best solution to save coho salmon. It just so happens that a teeny creek, Fauntleroy Creek, runs through Cove Park and exits at the beach near the ferry.
Fauntleroy Creek is a steelhead- and coho salmon-bearing creek, and children and community groups used to release salmon into the Creek. A pollution plan is in place to cleanup fecal coliform bacteria pollution. The area around the Creek and Cove Park is culturally significant and cherished by the community. Centuries-old middens and other Indigenous artifacts were found in the area.
The Creek is clearly visible at low tide, winding down through the sand and into the waters of the Sound. It starts about a mile or so upland in Fauntleroy Park, eventually emptying near the ferry terminal. Hopefully salmon will return in a few months, and hopefully onsite bioretention will protect them from 6PPD-quinone and other chemicals.
Cove Park is one example of how we can better steward the environment, protect salmon and water quality, ensure community access to greenspace, enhance climate resiliency. Parks like this make neighborhoods more walkable, explorable, healthy and vibrant. If you’d like to see more projects like Cove Park in YOUR community, take action here: https://naturesscorecard.com/act/