Garbage collection normal on Memorial Day

Seattle Public Utilities is reminding folks that garbage, recycling and yard waste collections are on a normal schedule next week, despite the Memorial Day holiday. So if Monday is your collection day, put out everything by 7 a.m. like usual. The North Recycling and Disposal Station (1350 N. 34th St.) in Fremont/Wallingford will also be open during regular business hours, 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Monday.

Roadside raingardens to be installed soon

Construction of the Roadside Raingardens project in Ballard is scheduled to begin in a few weeks. A total of 77 households will have gardens planted on the city-owned planting strip in front of their property, featuring a variety of plants and trees whose root structure is designed to hold stormwater long enough to absorb into the soil instead of pouring into combined sewer/stormwater pipes.

An example of a roadside raingarden along Linden Ave N in Seattle

Seattle Public Utilities employees were on hand during the final community planning meeting on May 12 to address any last concerns from residents affected by the project.

“It’s a new approach to dealing with sewers,” said SPU project manager Karen York. She said the area has an average of 12 Combined Sewer Overflows per year, when the federal EPA requires an average of one. CSOs happen in older areas of Seattle where sewer and stormwater lines are combined, and during large storms they will sometimes overflow into Puget Sound to prevent sewer backups into people’s homes.

Construction for the project is expected to get underway in mid-June. The project was originally slated to begin closer to April, due to the rigid timelines required in order to use the federal stimulus money funding the project. However, York said they were able to push back the date so residents wouldn’t be stuck with bare dirt for any longer than necessary before the plants went in this autumn. Half of the approximately $1.5 million in federal money is a grant that doesn’t need to be repaid, while the other half is a low-interest loan to the city.

York presented a rough schedule of construction by area (map .pdf): 29th Avenue Northwest, 30th Avenue Northwest and 31st Avenue Northwest will be done between late June and August; 28th Avenue Northwest between 71st and 72nd streets during August; and 28th Avenue Northwest between 64th and 66th streets between August and October. Planting will begin sometime between mid-October and mid-November.

York said this later planting would allow the plants to grow better than the earlier proposed schedule. Paul Brothers, the contractors for the project, will be responsible for monthly maintenance of all the gardens for three years after installation, at which point they will be maintained by SPU crews or another contractor hired by SPU.

Shane DeWald, a Department of Transportation employee working with SPU, said they’re flexible on which plants are used, and have several combinations for residents to choose from for their own gardens, including Kelsey Dogwood, Barren Strawberry, Iris, and Swordfern. The deadline for plant selection is June 1, and any residents with a strong preference or allergy issues should contact York as soon as possible.

Residents had a variety of concerns throughout the planning process. Don Sutherland, a retired city engineer, said he was skeptical gardens would actually have a significant impact on the CSO problem. “It might do something, but it’s not going to do the trick,” he said. He also worried that the clay-like soil in his area might absorb water so slowly that it might back up into the street.

Claire Gibson, an SPU worker, said the planners have addressed whatever concerns they could. Areas with more clay-like soil will have a garden designed to accommodate that, she said. While the drains might back up during major storm events, as they sometimes do with the current system, Gibson said the gardens shouldn’t make that happen any more frequently.

When residents told SPU they worried that letting stormwater go into the groundwater might flood yards and basements, SPU commissioned a monitoring survey. Six wells were dug around the affected area and had their water levels checked monthly since mid-October. The goal was to understand how high the groundwater actually got during the winter, in order to plan for how much water would be added to that.

She said that all but two wells had no change in their water levels, and the wells that did change left plenty of space for the amount of water that would be retained, even at their peak.

Shari Cantwell, another SPU worker, said they also listened to neighborhood feedback by reducing the size of the bump-outs in the curbs on 29th Avenue Northwest. The bumps are necessary in order to make the gardens big enough to catch enough rainwater to make a difference in the CSO problem. The sizes of the bumps vary depending on the size of the street.

Neighbors have been concerned about the loss of parking as a result of those bumps throughout the project, and York said SPU conducted a study of cars parked in the affected areas in the evenings. She said she’s confident that there will still be enough room for everyone to park.

Not all community members have felt heard, though. Mark, a homeowner who asked his last name not be given, said he’s felt the message from SPU has been, “You’re the target, we’ve got the money, this is what we’re doing, end of story.” Others simply don’t want the look of their neighborhood to change, as one neighbor said: “We just like the way things are now.”

Liston-Riggs said she believes that when neighbors see the gardens, they’ll find they’re “an improvement, not an imposition.”

York introduced key project members sure to become familiar faces to the 77 households getting raingardens: Scott Paul and Bill Kitchens of Paul Brothers, as well as Roslyn Liston-Riggs, SPU’s on-site engineer who will inspect the contractor’s work daily.

In response to a question about garbage pickups during construction, Paul pledged that if any streets were so narrow that trucks couldn’t make it around construction, his company would bring cans to an accessible area to avoid service disruptions.

Liston-Riggs has worked on several similar projects and said she’s ready to help with any issues or questions residents have as construction progresses. She said she understands some residents’ concerns about changes to the sidewalk area; it’s been something people are “used to having permission to use and enjoy.” This is the first time the city has asserted its ownership, which has been met with resistance on other projects as well, Liston-Riggs said.

Another look at the raingarden along Linden Ave N in Seattle

Once the gardens were finished, she said, all their concerns “melted away.” Liston-Riggs said she encourages anybody who wants a better idea of how the gardens will actually look visit the site on Linden Avenue North between 132nd and 143rd streets, which is the most similar project done so far.

“It seems dramatic when it’s coming at you,” Gibson said, “but it seems to work out.”

Residents can find more detailed construction information and regular progress updates by visiting seattle.gov/util and searching for Ballard Roadside Raingardens. Karen York can be contacted at SPU_BRR@seattle.gov or at (206) 386-9161.

(Contributor Brionna Friedrich is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory.)

Roadside raingardens coming to Ballard

In order to help reduce the amount of storm water that flows into the combined sewer system, Seattle Public Utilities will be constructing roadside raingardens along some Ballard streets.

Example of a roadside raingarden.

Starting next month, SPU will begin installation of raingardens in the public-right-of-way across ten blocks between NW 65th St and NW 85th St and 28th Ave NW and 31st Ave NW. Construction along parking strips, streets and alleys is not expected to take more than three weeks on each individual block. Planting in the raingardens will take place this fall and the entire project should be wrapped up by November.

To learn more about the construction process and schedule, there is a meeting tonight at 6 p.m. at the Sunset Hill Community Club (3003 NW 66th St.) More information on the Roadside Raingarden project can be found here.

City rolls out RainWise incentive program

The City of Seattle is now offering financial incentives to Ballardites, who live in a specific area, to help reduce the amount of storm water that runs into the sewer system. We first wrote about the RainWise program back in January, which will help homeowners build rain gardens or install cisterns on their private property to allow water soak back into the ground.

An example of a residential rain garden.

Eligible homeowners must live roughly between 16th Ave NW and 33rd Ave NW and NW 65th St and NW 85th St (detailed map of boundaries below). “We will give them [homeowners] a per square foot dollar amount for every square foot of roof area that they disconnect from the combined sewer and put into either a rain garden or a cistern,” Bob Spencer with SPU tells us. As a minimum, a homeowner will have to control 400 square feet of roof area. Spencer says the rebate could be up to $4 per square foot.

Rainwise “really aims to get at the private property and try to make improvements there, and we think that with enough involvement we’ll be able to see a significant reduction in the volumes that are being channeled into those sewer systems,” Susan Stoltzfus with SPU says. Under this incentive program, about 3,000 homeowners are eligible. According to Spencer, SPU is predicting that this incentive program will keep an average of 151,000 gallons of water from running into Salmon Bay each year.

To be eligible, a homeowner must use a licensed contractor to build a rain garden. The city will not reimburse for a DIY (do it yourself) project.

SPU chose this specific area of Ballard because it is in a fully combined sewer system, Spencer says, meaning that storm water and sewage flow in the same pipes and when we have heavy rains, the system will overflow into Salmon Bay. The area also has a high number of single-family homes and relatively clean and sandy soil.

Resources for homeowners:

  • Residential RainWise information
  • Do research on controlling storm water, find out your home’s storm water impact, see what neighbors are doing
  • Map of eligibility area (.pdf)
  • Find out if you qualify for incentives & how to apply
  • Contractors listed by Seattle Public Utilities
  • Neighborhood Service Center out of compost kits

    Updated: The Ballard Neighborhood Service Center (5604 22nd Ave NW) is already out of free green kitchen kits.

    Employees opened the doors at 9 a.m. to a group of people waiting to exchange their coupon for the kits and by 9:30, the center had handed out their entire allotment of 100.

    Seattle Public Utilities just posted this:

    Due to unprecendented popular demand, supplies of the free green kitchen kits offered by Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) were exhausted this morning.

    SPU distributed 1,000 kitchen collection kits in the first two hours of the giveaway.

    SPU customers can still take advantage of the “Compost Days” compost giveaway and pick up two free bags of compost with the coupon that appeared in the spring edition of the utility’s CurbWaste & Conserve newsletter.

    For more details, visit www.CGCompost.com or call 1-877-SOILS-4U.

    SPU apologizes for any inconvenience caused to its customers.

    Previously: Free “Green Kitchen Kits” available

    Despite no contract, garbage collection normal

    Although Teamsters Local 174 does not have a contract, Seattle Public Utilities says that garbage and yard waste drivers will remain on the job today. “Although no new contract agreement has been announced between the company and the union, Teamsters officials reportedly have instructed garbage haulers to go to work today as usual,” a SPU press release states. The contract between Waste Management and the Teamsters Local 174 expired on March 31.

    Free ‘Green Kitchen Kits’ available

    Check your mailbox this week for a coupon for a free “Green Kitchen Kit” which should arrive in your CurbWaste and Conserve newsletter. The kits, which feature an EcoSafe Kitchen Collector (shown at right) and compostable bags for storing food scraps, a food scraper, a CFL light bulb and a reusable shopping bag can be picked up starting April 15th at the Ballard Neighborhood Service Center (5604 22nd Ave NW).

    “Green Kit giveaways are part of Compost Days, April 15 – May 30, when Seattle Public Utilities, Cedar Grove and Seattle City Light and our community partners are making these special offers to Seattle residents to say ‘thank you’ for helping make our city even better through your recycling and composting efforts,” the Seattle Public Utilitie’s website states.

    Water to be shut off for some after hydrant hit

    This morning, Seattle Public Utilities crews responded to the corner of 14th Ave NW and NW 85th St where water was flowing from a fire hydrant.

    According to one of the crewmembers, someone hit the hydrant, knocking it off its base. He said they would have to shut the water off to some customers in the area until about noontime, although they won’t know the extent of the damage until they get in there. Water from the hydrant was flowing south past 80th on several streets.

    Water main break affecting some in North Beach

    An in-ground water-main break Saturday morning is affecting water pressure in the North Beach neighborhood. According to Seattle Public Utilities, quite a few people are affected because the break is near several district valves. SPU says the main is should be repaired later today. John emailed us after speaking with SPU, “When it’s fixed, workers will flush the line, and homeowners will likely experience discolored water for a short period. The city spokesperson said there is no need to boil water. He said when water pressure returns to normal, residents should simply keep their taps open until the water runs clear.” The woman we spoke with at SPU said to run cold water in the bathtub in five-minute increments. If the discoloration doesn’t go away in an hour, call the SPU 24-hour emergency phone number – 206-386-1800. (Thanks John for the tip!)

    Treecycle that Christmas tree

    Now that Christmas is over, you may be ready to get rid of your tree.

    If you subscribe to curbside food and yard waste collection you can put your tree out between now and January 10th for no extra charge. Seattle Public Utilities website, At Your Service, states that, “Trees should be cut into sections of six feet long or shorter, with branches trimmed to less than four feet to fit into the collection trucks. Sections should be bundled with string or twine.” Flocked trees or trees with tinsel will be picked up as an extra unit of garbage, which costs $7.60. You can also drop your tree off at the Recycling and Disposal Station at N. 34th St and Carr Place N. (Photo of Geeky Swedes Christmas tree – crooked topper and all.)