Salmon in City Hall illustrate our wasteful ways

The Salmon in City Hall project illustrates how common household activities add to the pollution of the city
The Salmon in City Hall project illustrates how common household activities add to the pollution of the city's streams, creeks and lakes and, in turn, harms wildlife. The project features a 3-D model of a neighborhood placed atop a fish tank full of 250 newly hatched Coho salmon.
— image credit: Jacinda Howard/The Mirror

Hundreds of baby salmon are helping to teach Federal Way residents about storm water and healthy creeks.

Federal Way has set up a fish tank at City Hall, 33325 8th Ave. S. Inside the tank are 250 newly hatched Coho salmon. The salmon are being used as a tool to teach the community how certain activities and lifestyles affect storm water drainage, and in turn, local waterways, where salmon and other wildlife live. The project is called Salmon in City Hall.

Many members of the public do not realize how stormwater drainage works, water quality specialist Hollie Shilley said. The Salmon in City Hall project illustrates the process.

“It’s just one component of our public education program,” Shilley said. “We’re trying to think of ways (to educate the public) that are unconventional.”

When it rains, or when snow melts, water runs through streets and ditches, picking up pollutants. The polluted water then enters stormwater drains. Drainage pipes transport the water to local surface waters, such as creeks, streams and lakes. There, the pollutants can harm wildlife.

The Salmon in City Hall project offers a visual aid of this process. A 3-D model neighborhood is placed atop the salmon’s fish tank. The model illustrates common household activities that contribute to the pollution of Federal Way’s creeks, streams and lakes.

In front of one home is a scene in which outside repairs are being completed. Materials from the repairs are washed from the home’s driveway into storm drains and a nearby creek. At another home, an owner and dog are outside. The model illustrates pet waste being washed into a storm drain.

Another home features a scene where a vehicle is being washed. Soap runs from the driveway into the storm drain. At a fourth home, automotive repairs are underway. Oil runoff is transported to the storm drain.

The Salmon at City Hall project offers tips to ensure cleaner stormwater and healthier salmon and wildlife. The public can make better choices and be more aware of how its actions affect Federal Way’s surface waters and wildlife.

For instance, exterior home repairs can be done during the summer months when rainwater is less likely to wash pollutants into storm drains. Pet waste can be placed in a plastic bag and put in the garbage. Washing cars in the grass or on other surfaces that soak up the water is less harmful to lakes, streams and creeks. Phosphate-free soaps are another friendly option. Oil and other automotive spills ought to be cleaned up immediately; these substances should never be washed down storm drains.

The Coho salmon came as eggs from the Soos Creek Hatchery in mid-January. A few weeks later, they hatched. The fish are less than an inch long. They will be released into the Hylebos Creek this spring when they are more mature and better able to find food on their own.

Until that time, the Salmon in City Hall project will be on display in the community development department on the second floor.

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