SPU Program offers local home owners free water-saving toilets

Seattle Public Utilities is encouraging locals to learn more about the Water Conservation Program’s free toilet program.

The program is offering local residents the chance to save money and the environment by installing water-saving toilets.

SPU has partnered with Sound Generations Minor Home Repair program to install the toilets and recycle old toilets free of charge.

To be eligible, you must receive a Seattle Public Utilities water bill, live in the home you own, have toilets that were installed before 2004 and meet income guidelines.

If you are interested call Sound Generations at (206) 448-5751 or visit www.seattle.gov/util/FreeToilets to get started!

Ecology Youth Corps seeks teen applicants for summer jobs

Are you or do you have a teen that is looking for a summer a job that is both in the outdoors and helps the environment?

The Department of Ecology invites all local youth to apply for summer jobs in the Ecology Youth Corps (EYC), which helps clean up roadsides and other public areas.

Youths ages 14 to 17 can apply to work for a 3 to 4 week session with a litter cleanup crew based in King county. Crews also will learn how to better care for the environment while earning $9.32 an hour. Applications are available online.

EYC expects to hire 237 teens for its summer crews this year, 117 of them in Western Washington. EYC is an important part of an overall Ecology-coordinated effort that each year removes more than 3,500 tons of litter and illegally dumped materials statewide.

To learn more about the program check out the Ecology Youth Corps website. Applications close Friday, April 4.

City to fine homeowner for tree removal

Tree removal crews cut down a large Monkey Puzzle tree at the corner of NW 60th and 9th Ave. last week. Today, Seattle’s Department of Planning and Development tells My Ballard that they’re preparing to fine the homeowners for removing an “exceptional tree” without a permit.

An exceptional tree is defined “by virtue of its size, species, condition, cultural or historic importance, age, and/or contribution as part of grove of trees,” explains the city rule (.pdf). In this case, a Monkey Puzzle tree is exceptional if it measures over 1 foot 10 inches in diameter at 4.5 feet above the ground.

“We’re anticipating a violation,” said Alan Justad, Deputy Director of DPD, explaining that the removal required a permit. “They needed to go through the approval process.” Justad says the fine will be based on the estimated market value of the tree, which he expects may total “several thousand dollars” for a tree that size, although the final amount is still being calculated. Fines also typically involve a restoration requirement, he said.

Some neighbors were disappointed in the new homeowner’s decision to take down one of the largest Monkey Puzzle trees in the city, while others supported the move, explaining the tree was in danger of damaging the house.

Ballard Green Streets wins $1.5 million in funding

Back in May, we told you about a Seattle Public Utilities proposal called “Ballard Green Streets” to create green spaces in the planter strips between the sidewalk and the street to reduce stormwater pollution. Today, Governor Gregoire approved $1.5 million in funding for the project.

The project includes the area between NW 75th and NW 85th Streets and 28th to 32nd Avenues NW, controlling runoff from 2.6 acres. The green spaces will be designed to reduce stormwater pollution to the Ship Canal. Together with projects in Olympia and Spokane that were also announced today, the funding from American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will create 75 jobs, according to the Governor’s office. (Thanks Allison for the tip!)

Natural drainage project meeting tomorrow

In May we first reported about the Green Streets project that Seattle Public Utilities wants to implement next Spring to reduce the amount of rain water that flows directly into Puget Sound.

The idea is to build specially designed green spaces to catch water in an environmentally friendly way. With these strips, the water would be slowed down and soak back into the earth. Soil tests are underway within the blocks bounded by NW 85th and NW 65th Streets, and 28th Ave NW and 32nd Ave NW to determine which areas are best suited for the project. This area is ideal because there is a monitoring station down stream.

There is a meeting about the project tomorrow evening from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. at the Sunset Hill Community Center, 3003 NW 66th Street. Seattle Public Utilities staff will present information about anticipated project benefits and impacts, what features are planned, how blocks will be selected and how the public can participate in the project. (Thanks Michele and Kevin for the tip!)

Mobile cottage looking for a home

Jeff and Arlene are downsizing. Big time. The couple is building a “mini-mobile cottage” and looking for somewhere to live once they move to Seattle in a few months when Jeff starts as a PhD student at UW. “This home is our experiment in voluntary simplicity, leaving less of a carbon footprint, using green building materials and sustainability,” Arlene explains.

The tiny home measures just 7’-6”x18’-6” on the inside. On their blog, they say that they want a safe, quiet location not too far from UW — and they love the Ballard area. “We simply need a space to park the cottage, an outdoor extension cord for our tiny frig and a garden hose for a hookup for showers when we don’t shower at the YMCA after a morning workout.” They’re willing to pay rent for use of space. They’ll recycle rainwater, they have a composting toilet and will bring along their own propane tank for heating and cooking. If you’re interested, you can contact Jeff and Arlene here.

Sheen seen under the Ballard Bridge

Darren emailed us about an oil or gas sheen that he saw under the north end of the Ballard Bridge today. “It is pretty substantial and even more disgusting and depressing than the weather,” he writes.

We spoke with Petty Officer Molle at the Coast Guard who says that they haven’t heard anything about the sheen. Edog commented in the George & Dragon post that he has put in a call to the Puget Soundkeeper Alliance.

Soil samples taken along 24th

A gas station used to be located at 24th Ave NW and 56th St., and its fuel storage tanks are still buried in the area.

This morning crews were taking soil samples nearby. One of the workers told us they’re monitoring the tanks and checking the soil for possible contamination. It’s unclear what they discovered from the site. We’ll do some checking and see if we can dig up some more details. (Thanks Peter for the tip!)

Climate change education first in Ballard

In a first for the state of Washington, students at Whitman Middle School are learning about global climate change today through a unique partnership. The program, developed by Colorado-based engineering firm MWH, was launched last year and has been rolled out to handful of school nationwide, including ones in Colorado, California and Georgia. The kids are going through a day-long program teaching them about climate change and what they can do about it. While Whitman is the first school in our state to offer the program, other schools plan to follow in the future.