I'm a bit obsessive about stormwater and what it washes off of our city streets into the Bay. It's a recognized problem. SPU (Seattle Public Utilities) wrote a new stormwater manual to comply with EPA and Ecology rulings. New projects, including new road projects, above a certain square footage size limit are required to infiltrate or manage stormwater to the "maximum extent practicable" - or "feasible", I think is the term in Seattle. So far nothing seems to be feasible for our urban city streets, and it's very discouraging. SDOT is a perennially underfunded agency - I really don't know how they can get anything done - and there has been no enthusiasm shown on their part for trying to figure out the problem of urban (as in downtown) stormwater. Nothing has been designed for our situation of urban streets, there aren't any off the shelf solutions, and I can't really imagine what such solutions might look like, myself. I don't have to imagine the consequences, though. Stormwater from roadways carries enough pollution from auto fluid leaks into the Sound to equal the Exxon Valdez spill, every two years.
We've had to waste a lot of recent opportunities to do something about the polluted water coming off of our streets. All of the repaving that was being done for the Bridging the Gap work was designed before the new stormwater rules were in effect. That work will last for 50 years, without any added stormwater treatment. There is a big new plan for Denny Way that includes lots of "green" but no stormwater treatment. I haven't gotten a satisfactory explanation why. I had thought the work for the new RapidRide bus bulbs on 3rd Avenue would have stormwater filtration designed in. The draft version of the stormwater manual required added filtration anytime there were significant curb changes. It proved to be too hard, or too expensive. Then there is the coordination between SDOT, SPU, and adjacent property owners; no one ever really owns the problem and nothing gets done. I think we can do better, and really, we have to, somehow - but as I said, SDOT is an unloved and starved agency. It's up to us in the end, isn't it?
Cross-posted to Inside Belltown