Volunteers bolster Puget Sound water quality

Diane Mitte collects a water sample for testing while Mary Johnson and Shannon Valderas prep equipment at Edmonds’ Brackett’s Landing.

Mary Johnson, Diane Mitte and Shannon Valderas meet at Edmonds’ Brackett’s Landing once a month on a mission: to monitor the health of stormwater coursing out of pipes that discharge directly in the Puget Sound.

They are volunteers with the Salish Sea Stormwater Monitoring Project (SSSM), a nonprofit that checks municipal stormwater for pollution concentrations in seven Puget Sound towns.

“Our volunteers monitor stormwater outfall pipes for elevated pollution, which can kill or sicken salmon, orcas and other marine life,” says Shanti Nelson, the organization’s community outreach coordinator. They test for nine attributes, including pH levels, turbidity and the presence of heavy metals and bacteria like E. coli.

Diane Mitte and Shannon Valderas use a test strip to check 16 water quality parameters including hardness, lead, fluoride and mercury.

When the Edmonds volunteers find elevated pollution levels, they inform Patrick Johnson, the City of Edmonds senior stormwater engineering technician, who then starts the detective work to find and eliminate the pollution source. 

Johnson said he values the volunteers’ “desire to make the local communities healthier, safer and environmentally aware through the collection of scientific data. I’ve begun collecting these data sets in hopes of building an ongoing database to determine the fluctuations, changes and ultimately the problem areas that need addressing.”

Mary Johnson records water quality data.

Valderas finds the work fun and meaningful. “It’s really gratifying to be able to test for these pollution parameters, report them to the city and have the city act on it,” she said. “We can see the process come full circle. It feels like we are really enacting change.”

SSSM is almost 60 volunteers strong and welcomes newcomers. More volunteers are needed in Edmonds, Mukilteo and Everett, says SSSM project lead organizer Tim Gohrke. “Our volunteers know they’re helping make the world a better place. We need them and we value them.”

“Being a part of the stormwater project is an incredibly rewarding experience that you will thoroughly enjoy. No matter your age or level of experience in scientific studies, it’s so easy to catch on,” Nelson said.

To learn more about volunteer opportunities mail volunteer@stormwater-salishsea.org and check out stormwater-salishsea.org/index.html.

— Story and photos by Clare McLean

  1. I would be curious as to how long they have been doing this and the results over time getting better getting worse? Are they testing for those tire chemicals? Seems to be a worthwhile effort kinda wonder why government isn’t doing it.

  2. A very big applause to Diane, Mary and Shannon for their work as volunteers testing the waters at Edmonds Brackett’s Landing. I add my query to Jim’s, of why isn’t the government doing this.
    The government may be watching as this work is being done by these dedicated people.
    Ladies, it is your devotion to keeping track of the health of all of us as you learn of the contaminates that affect us.
    I wish I could join you but my health issues do not allow.
    Thank you so much for all that you so untiring do.
    Ingrid Wolsk

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