Researchers working on solution to toxic runoff

There was record rainfall in October this year, and all that rain caused local creeks and rivers to rise, but it’s not just rain that’s going into the water.

Toxic runoff is coming from our roads.

A sample of storm water taken from a drain beneath SR 520 in Seattle was full of particles of oil, exhaust, gas and tire dust.

It's being washed off roads and down into storm drains and can work its way into creeks and rivers.

One of the most obvious examples is with urban rivers, like a section of the Cedar River in Renton.

Toxic runoff is a serious concern for scientists. Researchers at Washington State University's Puyallup Research and Extension Center have been studying a solution.

What looks like a normal parking lot is actually made of permeable pavement.

Eco-toxicologist John Stark showed reporter Jeff Dubois how it works.

On normal concrete, water from a hose just runs until it finds a place to soak in off the pavement, taking toxic chemicals with it.

Water on permeable concrete soaks in immediately.

Underneath is a layer of crushed rock, which pulls the pollutants out and basically cleans the water as it soaks back into the water table or makes its way into the nearby creek.

At WSU Puyallup's salmon lab, Stark and his team have determined the pollutants affect heart development in fish and lead to neurological problems and even death.

Currently, they're researching something called "pre-spawn mortality" in Coho salmon.

“They come into these urban streams and they die before they spawn. We're not sure what chemicals are causing that, but we know it's a chemical in storm water,” said Stark.

The pervious pavement system at WSU-Puyallup comes in both concrete and asphalt. Scientists have been testing the materials for durability and found they don't hold up quite as well as traditional pavements, but researchers are teaming up with Boeing to use some carbon fiber from 787 wings to strengthen the materials.

Jeff Dubois will have more details on that for a story later on KIRO 7 News at 5 p.m.

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