It’s a serious message, but now King County’s Wastewater
Treatment Division hopes their humorous approach will get people
thinking about the “F word.”
The word, of course, is “flushing,” and the county was given
permission to borrow Macklemore’s catchy tune from “Thrift
Shop” (warning: language) to bring the message home to
people: Don’t flush anything down the toilet except human waste and
toilet paper. Check out the first video player to see what the
creative folks came up with.
The campaign, called “Flushing Awesome,” uses music and simple
cartoon videos. King County officials hope it will get the message
across better than previous warnings, which seem to have had little
Another video, also shown on this page, is built around the song
“One (Singular Sensation)” from the long-running Broadway play
I understand the urge to flush things and get them out of sight,
but I was not fully aware of this enormous problem until 1998.
That’s when Bremerton City Councilman Carlos Montgomery talked
about a giant “rag ball,” 2 to 3 feet wide and 30 feet long caught
in Bremerton’s sewer system. Read the full story in the Kitsap Sun, April 1, 1998.
For other great toilet tunes, including “Don’t Flush the Baby
(Wipes)” and “Dope in the Water,” check out the music of Steve
Anderson of Portland’s Clean Water Services. You can listen to five
of his sewer songs on my “Water Ways” entry from Dec. 19, 2011, which
also features the holiday favorite, “O Christmas Grease.”
I’m pleased that King County is taking a light-hearted approach
to the subject of flushing, but I have to hand it to Heather Graf
of King 5 News, who went behind the scenes at the county’s West
Point Treatment Plant to show us some stark video of why this is so
Says Graf: “The sign out front says nothing about this place
being a landfill, but one look inside King County’s wastewater
treatment plant and you’ll see most people act like it is… It’s not
just gross, it’s expensive — $120,000 a year in ratepayer money
just to haul all this trash to the landfill.”
Only time will tell if Macklemore and his music will help in a
roundabout way to solve a messy problem for King County and other
sewer operators in the region.
This week, I’d like to share some student artwork from two
One is a local event in which 10 Kitsap County students are
honored in the Kitsap Recycles Day contest, sponsored by Kitsap
County Public Works. The other contest is for students anywhere in
the country. Called the Keep the Sea Free of Debris contest, it is
sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
The first poster featured on this page is by Li-Nelshin Co, a
fifth grader at Esquire Hills Elementary School, located in East
Bremerton and part of the Central Kitsap School District.
Li-Neishin wrote this about the poster:
“Recycling is important because we are saving the world for
future generations. My favorite thing to recycle is PAPER because
this way we are not only recycling, we are also saving the trees
that gives us fresh air, shade, preventing soil erosion.”
A couple years ago, the Kitsap Recycles Day poster contest was
moved from November to February and expanded into a broader
educational program. The delayed contest allowed teachers and/or
parents to provide more information than could have been completed
by America Recycles Day, celebrated in November. A new activity
“Close the Loop” (PDF 16.7 mb), is part of Kitsap’s expanded
“It’s incredibly encouraging to see the influx of posters we see
on Kitsap Recycles Day,” said Kitsap County Recycling Coordinator
Christopher Piercy in a news release.
“You can tell each student has a passion for recycling, reducing
waste, and the environment. It is especially fascinating to see the
grasp they all have on the value of ‘closing the loop’ — not just
recycling, but buying recycled content products.”
The other winners are Libby Parker,
kindergartener at Gateway Christian Schools, Poulsbo;
Natalie Oathout, first grader at Emerald Heights
Elementary School; Jeddison Miller, second grader
at Crosspoint Academy; Kelsey Derr, third grader
at Hilder Pearson Elementary School; Saige Herwig,
third grader at South Colby Elementary School; Charlotte
Halbert, fourth grader at Gateway Christian Schools,
Poulsbo; Blake Warner, fifth grader at Crosspoint
Academy; Drew Moar, sixth grader at Manchester
Elementary School; and Gia Acosta, eighth grader
at Our Lady Star of the Sea Catholic School.
The second poster on this page, a winner in the 2014 Keep the
Sea Free of Debris contest, was drawn by Jessica D., a fourth
grader in New York.
“Keep the sea free of debris. Debris is garbage, marine debris
is garbage in the sea. Marine debris is very bad. Marine debris is
mostly plastics, fishing gear and litter. Marine debris is very
harmful and dangerous to undersea creatures. This pollution can
ruin habitats. Marine wildlife can get hurt by marine debris. It
also can cost a lot of money to fix. But you can help fix it by
just cleaning beaches and not littering.”
The contest is sponsored by NOAA’s Marine Debris Program, which
asked contest entrants to create their “vision” of marine debris.
All 13 winners and their comments can be seen on a Gallery
Page on the Marine Debris Blog.
When it comes to ecosystem restoration, I love it when we can
see the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s rare when we have a
chance to say that restoration is nearing completion, since we know
that habitat work continues on and on, seemingly without end, in
many areas of Puget Sound.
So let us anticipate a celebration when Kitsap County’s regional
stormwater projects are completed, when all the deadly ghost nets
have been removed from the shallow waters of Puget Sound, and when
there are no more creosote pilings left on state tidelands.
Of course, the light at the end of the tunnel may be a mirage,
but let’s not go there quite yet.
Kitsap regional ponds
Kitsap County has been collecting a Surface and Stormwater
Management Fee from residents in unincorporated areas and using
some of that money to leverage state and federal stormwater grants.
The fee is currently $73.50, but it will rise to $78 in 2014, $82
in 2015, $86.50 in 2016, $91 in 2017 and $96 in 2018. See
Kitsap Sun, Nov. 27, 2012.
The good news is that the effort to retrofit old, outmoded
stormwater systems is nearing completion, with remaining projects
either in design or nearing the design phase. Check out the Kitsap
County Public Works Capital
Facilities Program for a list of completed projects with maps
as well as proposed projects with maps. As the documents show, the
regional retrofits are on their way to completion.
So what are the sources of future stormwater problems? The
answer is roads, and the problem is enormous. Still, the county has
begun to address the issue with a pilot project that could become a
model for other counties throughout Puget Sound. Please read my
“New strategies will address road runoff” (subscription) to see
how the county intends to move forward.
Ghost nets and crab pots
Earlier this year, the Legislature provided $3.5 million to
complete the removal of derelict fishing gear that keeps on killing
in waters less than 105 feet deep. The work is to be done before
the end of 2015.
Phil Anderson, director of the Washington Department of Fish and
Wildlife, was excited about the prospect. Here’s what he said in a
“Working in conjunction with our partners at Northwest Straits
and in the State Legislature, we have made enormous strides toward
eliminating the risks posed to fish and wildlife by derelict
fishing gear. This is difficult work, and it requires a real
commitment from everyone to get it done. We look forward to
celebrating the next milestone in 2015.”
The most amazing statistic I found on this topic involved the
number of animals trapped by ghost nets. According to one
predictive model, if all the nets had been left alone to keep
fishing, they could be killing 3.2 million animals each year.
Washington Department of Natural Resources hasn’t slowed down in
its effort to remove old creosote pilings and docks. The structures
can be toxic to marine life, obstruct navigation and snag fishing
gear. By 2015, the total bill for removing such debris is expected
to reach $13 million.
Nobody is sure how much it will cost to remove the last of the
creosote materials from state lands, but DNR officials have
inventoried the various sites and expect to come up with a final
priority list over the next six months. Some pilings on privately
owned land may be a higher priority for the ecosystem, and
officials are trying to decide how to address those sites. Of
course, nobody can tackle pilings on private lands without working
through the property owners.
Download a spreadsheet of the
work completed so far (PDF 53 kb), which involves a focus on 40
sites throughout Puget Sound. Altogether, the projects removed
about 11,000 pilings plus about 250,000 square feet of “overwater
structures,” such as docks.
Plankton blooms reported last week from numerous locations in
Puget Sound were confirmed and examined from the air Monday by
Christopher Krembs and his colleagues at Eyes Over Puget Sound.
The marine monitoring group for the Department of Ecology
reported notable Noctiluca blooms, as I reported in a story in
Friday’s Kitsap Sun. The blooms are relatively harmless and not
unexpected, given the mild weather and freshwater flows that bring
nutrients into Puget Sound. They are earlier than in recent years,
Christopher also observed heavy sediment flows coming out of the
Fraser River near Vancouver and moving south along the Canadian
border. These and many other observations can be reviewed by
downloading the latest
report on Ecology’s website.
I really love this picture by Araminta “Minty” Little, a seventh
grader at Fairview Junior High School in Central Kitsap. Her
picture shows an octopus grasping trash that has been thrown into
Apparently, the judges in the annual Marine Debris Art Contest
also liked Minty’s picture. They named her one of 13 winners
nationwide out of more than 600 students from 21 states who entered
the contest, which is sponsored by the National Oceanic and
Minty’s drawing is a fine piece of work, but she also got high
marks for her concept, which carries a message about the dangers of
marine debris. As part of the contest, she was required to write a
bit about the problem. As quoted on the Central
Kitsap School District’s website, she explained:
“The picture I drew depicts a sea creature surrounded by
garbage. The octopus … is wrapping its tentacles around stray trash
preparing to throw it all back onto land. In the top right tentacle
is a sign reading ‘S.O.S.’ in parody to … an old sailing term.”
If you haven’t seen it, I think you’ll be impressed with this
video, which shows a bottlenose dolphin apparently asking for help
from some scuba divers, who noticed the animal tangled in fishing
line with a hook imbedded in its fin.
Martina Wing of Ocean Wings Hawaii captured the action, which
really begins at 3:30 into the eight-minute video, though the early
part sets the scene with some beautiful shots of manta rays. The
encounter took place Jan. 11 off the west coast of the Big
Reporter Philip Caulfield of the
New York Daily News quoted Keller Laros, the diver who came to
the rescue, as saying the dolphin was responsive to his gesture and
deliberately moved in close to be helped:
“I noticed he had a fishing wire wrapped around his left fin. I
reached out with my left hand … and gestured with my index finger
‘Come here.’ And he swam right up to me. The fact that he seemed to
recognize my gesture, that blew me away.”
Laros was able to cut away the line and remove the hook, and the
dolphin swam away.
The video has been viewed nearly 2 million times, with more than
2,000 comments posted to the site. I found some observations to be
DavidKevin: I am overwhelmed.
I have been certain for over 35 years that we shared the
planet with another sentient species, the dolphins, and this is
just more evidence of it. We don’t have to go off-planet to find an
alien species with whom to communicate, we just have to look
If we cannot learn to communicate with our distant mammalian
relatives, we’ll never be able to communicate with true
extra-terrestrials, should we ever meet them.
Marvelicious75: We use the word ‘sentient’
in a dialectic manner, but it is quite obviously not accurate. It
is arrogance that makes us consider ourselves separate from
‘animals’ like the dolphin. This story isn’t truly surprising in
light of the countless stories of dolphins rescuing humans. The
only limiting factor is our surprising lack of empathy….
Hobbitfrdo: Sad day for the world if we
stopped loving all creatures. Respect to you all.
Russell Laros: The diver cutting the line
off in the video is my father. He was really happy to be able to
make this connection to the animal and was pretty impressed by it’s
intelligence. Apparently this dolphin has been in contact with
humans before, though. It has been seen and interacted with workers
at a local open ocean fish farm nearby. Still really amazing
Misa Eniaki Amane: This dolphin is smarter
than all of us…..went up for air and back down to continue with the
supertekkel1: There are numerous_ ancient
stories of dolphins rescuing sailors who went overboard. Whether
they are true or not, it’s nice to see that we are finally able to
do something to return the favor.
1Irisangel: What a blessing to have
captured these moments on film. No words needed, only love and
compassion for a fellow traveler on planet Earth. Wonderful capture
OonaCanute: Now to get rid of all the
fishing nets and lines and hooks that kill thousands of dolphins
like this beauty every year.
Alex Bruce: The trust the dolphin had in
the humans in his time of need is humbling to me. Dolphins are very
intelligent creatures and know when to allow man to handle and help
them. The men that helped the dolphin have to have felt some sense
of pride derived from their kindness and humane actions. I know I
did when many years ago I helped rescue a pelican that had a 3-barb
hook anchored in its wing and a weight that was attached to the
fishing line. He said. “Thank you” in his way and took off in
bcmom5: Awesome. It swam around until it
found the right person to help it. That person and all who had a
hand in it were blessed with Dolphin Medicine which teaches us to
get out and breathe, explore, play. Breathe new life into your
life. Awesome. Thank you for helping and for
userbc44: What a touching and pure video! I
love the part at 4:33 when the diver goes to take off his lights
and puts them on the sea floor, the dolphin swims right in front of
him as to say, “Theres more! don’t go, here I am!”
POMPCATZ: Wonderful to watch this
intelligent creature seek your help and let you finish the job
after going up for air. This is just more proof these beautiful.
intelligent life forms should not be slaughtered for ignorant
tradition and profit.
KillerinExile: Dolphins seem almost
sapient. If they’re smart enough to ask for help maybe we shouldn’t
be eating and abusing them like we do.
starsbydaylight: … I am sure the majority
of people are naturally happy to help distressed animals that keep
their calm, sometimes being out of fear unreasonable while being
rescued. Once I witnessed a toddler busy carefully rescue a
butterfly drowning in a puddle of water. The intelligence of the
dolphin and the kind manner of the diver made me cry. In fact the
dolphin saved its own life….
flowerseva: This is the ‘Real News’
happening on Planet Earth! Imagine if the 6 o’clock nightly news
was filled with these images and emotions – What kind of world
would we then be creating??
Silverdale’s waterfront is seeing the effects of recent storms
in our area, as documented by Susan Digby, a geography instructor
at Olympic College.
High stormwater flows have washed litter, debris and dead salmon
into Sinclair and Dyes inlets, where currents and winds from the
south carry the materials to Silverdale’s beaches, including
Silverdale Waterfront Park and Old Mill Park.
“The north end of Dyes Inlet is like the end of a sock,” Susan
told me. “When we get rain and wind, everything piles up
Photos of all this debris — including parts of three docks —
were taken by Susan on Sunday, just two weeks after her students
cleaned up the beach entirely as part of an ongoing study that
counts and categorizes marine debris that collects there.
A phenomenal amount of trash winds up on our beaches, including
discarded food wrappers that people have carelessly discarded. Just
about anything that floats can wash into a stream or storm drain to
be carried into one of our local inlets. Some debris may be coming
from the nearby streets and parking lots in Silverdale, but some
could be coming all the way from Gorst, as suggested by
drogue studies (PDF 1.6 mb) conducted by the Navy.
As Susan points out, the debris includes lots of Styrofoam,
which can be ingested by birds and sea creatures, as well as baby
diapers and syringes, which are a reminder that disease organisms
are making their way into our local waters with uncertain effects
on the fish and shellfish we eat.
I plan to cover Susan Digby’s student research project in more
detail early next year, after 2012 data are compiled.
Sand is widespread on beaches throughout the world. But if you
get the chance to look really, really close, you are likely to see
colorful rocks, bits of shell and other natural and man-made
Every grain of sand is virtually unique, but when similar types
come together, we find ourselves walking on beaches that vary from
a finely ground silt to pebbles that are easily seen. You will see
stretches of coast that can appear white, red, green or black.
Gary Greenberg has been taking pictures of sand and has compiled
his best photographs into a book called
“A Grain of Sand: Nature’s Secret Wonder.” I like what Geology.com has
done on its website, offering a glimpse of Greenberg’s photos,
telling us where the sand was found and describing the types of
Taking microscopic art a step further, micro sculptor Willard
Wigan transforms grains of sand, bits of dust and hairs from
insects to produce amazingly small sculptures that can bring in
hundreds of thousands of dollars. You may have already seen his
amazing story told on various television shows, including the video
shown here from the Wall Street Journal. You can view Wigan’s
of more than 50 tiny sculptures on the artist’s website.
“It began when I was five years old. I started making houses for
ants because I thought they needed somewhere to live. Then I made
them shoes and hats. It was a fantasy world I escaped to where my
dyslexia didn’t hold me back and my teachers couldn’t criticize me.
That’s how my career as a micro-sculptor began.”
Wigan, who cannot read or write, found another way to express
himself. In an interview with Nick Watts of ABC News, Wigans noted:
“The teachers at school made me feel small. They made me feel
like nothing. I’m trying to prove to the world that nothing doesn’t
It was refreshing this week to join 250 students of all ages at
the GreenSTEM Summit in Belfair, where young people shared
environmental projects they had been working on through the year.
Check out my story in
Wednesday’s Kitsap Sun.
The students came prepared to discuss their projects with
others. While some students were more technically astute than
others, it was clear that most had learned a great deal from the
experience. Most of the 10 schools represented at the summit were
engaged in some type of ecosystem analysis, such as monitoring
streams for water quality.
During the first part of the day, the students visited
educational displays, where experts talked about issues ranging
from steelhead to cooking oysters and clams, including
Later in the day, they became involved in “nature mapping” at
the 40-acre Pacific Northwest Salmon Center. Nature mapping
involves observing animals and writing notes in data sheets, as
professional researchers would do.
To me, Earth Day has always meant two things: education and
action. Of course, I would never object to the entertainment that
accompanies many Earth Day events, because learning and good deeds
ought to involve fun and laughter.
For years, my wife Sue and I drove over to Sequim on the
Saturday after Earth Day to help clean up Dungeness Spit, which
happens to be the place she and I went on our first date many years
ago. We stopped going for health reasons but hope to get started
Tracyton resident Don Larson has organized the Sinclair Inlet
Cleanup twice each year for the past 21 years. Now Don and his
fellow organizer John Denis are a couple of guys who truly
understand the Earth Day spirit and what it means to give back to
Don told me this week that he was impressed with the crew that
showed up at Saturday’s cleanup. He was particularly inspired by
Jim Anderson, a 66-year-old Bremerton resident who regularly picks
up trash along the Bremerton boardwalk as he moves along in an
electric wheelchair, accompanied by his guide dog Raffle.
“He’s a phenomenal guy,” Larson said. “He has these hand-grabber
picker-ups. He and his wife Jackie clean up periodically all year
long as he moves around the waterfront.
“With Jim and Jackie, the human spirit really comes out. You
hear about all the bad stuff in the world, then you meet a person
like that who gets out and helps the community. It just makes you