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Down to Earth

Seattle: When it rains, it pollutes

Stormwater runoff is the number one source of pollution in Seattle's major estuary Puget Sound.
Stormwater runoff is the number one source of pollution in Seattle's major estuary Puget Sound. © FRANCE 24

When rain falls in undeveloped areas, the water is absorbed and filtered by soil and plants. But in built-up cities like Seattle, the water washes over roofs, roads and pavements, picking up a cocktail of pollutants on its way: petrol, tyre particles, heavy metals, pesticides and even animal excrement. Most of it ends up passing directly into the Puget Sound, transforming the city's waterway into a toxic home for marine life.

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This week Down to Earth meets a diver, filmmaker and now activist championing local efforts to save Seattle's Puget Sound.

Also, a leading aquatic ecotoxicologist at Washington State University explains why coho salmon are an important sentinel for the dangerous impacts of stormwater.

Finally, we explore how new types of building constructions that mimic nature could help filter pollution, an idea that can be replicated in cities around the globe.

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