A watershed effort

By Leslie Moriarty

Herald Writer

EVERETT — Kevin Hendricks brushed the asphalt surface near the storm drain with a heavy wire brush.

Kneeling in the parking lot behind the Everett Mall, he carefully laid a large plastic template on the clean square of asphalt and began spraying a thin coat of white paint over it. When he pulled the template away, a message appeared, along with the outline of a fish.

"Dump No Waste. Drains to Stream."

For Hendricks and eight other members of Boy Scout Troop 189, it was one of about 40 markings they left near the mall Sunday, all a part of a program designed to keep the North Creek watershed clean.

"I think it’s a good idea for people to do this," said Hendricks, 15, of Mukilteo. "We all have to do our part to keep the water sources clean."

The scouts gave their time on Sunday as a community service project, helping the Adopt A Stream program.

Adopt A Stream director Tom Murdoch said there are more than 10,000 storm drains in the North Creek watershed area that need to be marked, to remind people not to pour anything down storm drains that are intended for rainwater runoff only.

In a short lesson before the scouts began their work, Murdoch said the North Creek watershed begins directly under the parking lot at the mall. Watersheds, he said, are large areas of land around streams that drain into the streams.

The streams then travel to other water sources. In the case of North Creek, it merges with the Sammamish River, traveling to Lake Washington, through the Ballard Locks, and eventually emptying into Puget Sound.

"So the oil that someone dumps into a storm drain as they change their engine oil, can end up polluting not only a local creek, but everything along its way clear to the ocean," Murdoch said.

Because there are threatened species including sockeye and steelhead salmon in North Creek, every person needs to become more aware of what goes down the storm drains in their neighborhoods.

"North Creek is already rated as not suitable for primary contact," he said. "That means if you touch the water in the creek, you better wash your hands before you touch your mouth or anything else," Murdoch said, noting that the creek’s pollutants include zinc, lead, mercury and fecal coliform.

"It’s only by thinking about what’s running into the streams and through stream restoration that we will make them clean and healthy for the fish again," he said.

When a scout suggested fish should just be raised in hatcheries instead, Scout Master John Hendricks reminded the scouts that hatchery fish aren’t the same.

"They aren’t as strong and they are susceptible to disease," he said. "It’s only by cleaning up the streams and creeks that we will have clean water for the fish to breed in naturally."

Murdoch said that about 40 percent of area included in the North Creek watershed is paved surface.

"It’s human habitat like houses, stores, movie theaters, roads, driveways, parking lots and roofs," he said. "There are at least 87,000 people living in the North Creek watershed, too.

"And as that population grows, there will be more paved surface and even more reason for people to be aware of what’s running off that paved surface into the storm drains and eventually into North Creek."

Erik Deutsch and Ian Jellison, who are 12 and from Edmonds, joined Kevin Hendricks and formed a trio, searching the parking lot for more drains to mark. By the time they got to their fourth or fifth one, they had the routine down, and knew just how much paint to apply.

"I hope this helps people think," Kevin Hendricks said. "Some people do, I’m sure. But most people don’t think about where the oil goes when they dump it, or where the soap goes when they wash their car.

"We’ve got to come together to take care of our water, or else there won’t be fish in a few years."

That’s one of the reasons the scouts are participating in this program, John Hendricks said.

"We do a lot of fishing," he said. "We want to make sure there are fish around for the next generation to enjoy."

Murdoch said the Adopt A Stream program includes many kinds of environmental protection and cleanup programs. He said the storm drain program that was kicked off Sunday, will continue throughout the remainder of the year, and more volunteers are needed to mark drains.

"With the work we did today, there’s only about 9,960 more to go," he said.

You can call Herald Writer Leslie Moriarty at 425-339-3436 or send e-mail to

moriarty@heraldnet.com.

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