West Nile Virus

King County representatives have downplayed the possibility of standing water in bioswales, which could become breeding grounds for mosquitoes. In the meantime, cases of West Nile Virus are escalating nationwide. This is not the time to install bioswales in our neighborhoods—doing so could bring the West Nile Virus to our front doorsteps.

Time.com is reporting that 2012 has been one of the worst years on record for West Nile virus infections. To date, 48 states have reported cases to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In the U.S. this year, there have been more than 3500 cases and more than 100 deaths.

Especially disturbing is that more than half of the reported cases involve the severe version of the disease which attacks the nervous system and can lead to brain swelling and meningitis.

There’s no cure for the disease and no vaccine humans can take for West Nile Virus. The Washington Department of Health advises that the best way to protect yourself and your family is to avoid mosquito bites and reduce the places mosquitoes live and breed around your home. They describe these areas as “wetlands and woods” and they recommend reducing all areas of standing water near your residence.

If you’re concerned about bioswales becoming mosquito breeding grounds in your neighborhood, let King County know. Sign the petition today.

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More Questions than Answers

After the June 23 – 24 King County Open House / block meetings in the Westwood and Sunrise Heights neighborhoods, we’re more convinced than ever that King County should resolve sewer overflows with other solutions than any type of above ground, open, street water collection swale.

Residents on many blocks posed numerous questions and concerns to King County and SVR representatives. SVR is the contractor hired to design the bioswales.

Most residents left the meetings feeling that the proposed bioswale project is a big experiment that puts residents’ health, safety and property values at risk. Many residents realized how this proposed project will negatively impact quality of life in the community and are disappointed that King County is proposing to give West Seattle a bioswale CSO option instead of one of the better options being given to other Seattle neighborhoods.

Residents attending the meeting cited concerns that include:

  • Drowning and tripping concerns. King County’s response is that they “don’t anticipate any accidents.” Residents may want to read about this near drowning in Renton at an unfenced water retention pond: http://www.pnwlocalnews.com/news/160711315.html?mobile=true
  • Lawsuits related to tripping and drowning hazards. In response to questions about lawsuits, King County responded: “It is not possible for the County to respond to a hypothetical question about injuries and liability. Liability is based upon the facts of a given case and the applicable law applied to those facts. If litigation is brought against the County, then the County will respond based upon the facts and law regarding that particular case.” In addition to this response being vague, it also seems more rational to prevent the possibility of a lawsuit entirely by not installing a safety hazard in the public right of way.
  • King County stating that the bioswales and bump-outs will “calm” traffic, but won’t slow down emergency vehicles—how is this possible?
  • Water build-up in swales increasing likelihood of mosquitoes and flies breeding and attracting other pests.
  • Toxin build-up in soils and mulch as water runoff from yards and streets enter the bioswales. We don’t believe that plants will mitigate all the toxins; we believe that untreated, toxic soils will sit in residential neighborhoods for extended periods of time. SVR stated that they will test the soils once a year and might replace them every 15 years or so. Also, where will these toxic soils be deposited once they are finally removed?
  • Soil oversaturation from collecting thousands of gallons of water and then piping it for years on end to a dumping point below ground. Will this create sinkholes? Will residents who already have wet basement / crawlspace issues and wet spots in yards suffer worse problems? A King County representative said that the bioswales will actually help solve these existing water issues but did not provide any data to back up this assertion.
  • Maintenance of the bioswales not being up to homeowner’s standards. An SVR representative stated that maintenance crews in High Point weeded out and mulched over groundcovers because they thought the groundcover was weeds!
  • Loss of curb appeal / pretty tree-lined streets; loss of property value during resale.
  • Loss of parking in front of homes for residents, visitors and delivery / moving trucks.

 If you continue to have concerns about this project, please sign the petition and visit the Take Action page to find other ways to help!

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Attend the Open Houses and Speak Up

King County is planning a series of Open Houses this weekend, Saturday and Sunday, June 23 and 24. The goals is to “to discuss details of the bioretention swales planned for your block.” If you have questions or concerns about the Barton CSO project, please don’t remain silent. Silence implies acceptance. Please attend the Open Houses, ask the hard questions and carefully note how your questions are answered–or not. You may want to ask exactly how deep, wide and steep the swales will be. Ask about a written release to absolve you from any and all liability if and / or when someone is hurt due to the bioswales. Ask for written indemnification–which means King County will cover the costs of any damages that occur during bioswale construction and afterwards. Ask for a written guaranteee that King County will conduct maintenance on the swales–and ask what the maintenance schedule will be. Check out the “Issues” tab for many other questions–and don’t forget to to visit the “Take Action” tab to sign the online petition.

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Thank you for visiting the new West Seattle rain gardens website. We started this site due to numerous concerns about the biorentention swales King County is planning to construct in our neighborhoods. Bioswales are not rain gardens. Please read the Issues page to see the difference. We hope you’ll carefully review the content of the site and then take action. Together, we can call upon King County to provide the most safe and effective option to stop Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs). Please read the About Us, Issues and Take Action pages to learn more.

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