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Dirty stormwater killing salmon, scientists find simple solutions may be key

By PHUONG LE
Associated Press

The research being conducted by scientists with NOAA, Washington State University and U.S. Fish and Wildlife offers a promising solution to stormwater pollution, a major problem for Puget Sound and other streams and lakes in the nation.

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POULSBO, Wash. (AP) — Just hours into the experiment, the prognosis was grim for salmon that had been submerged in rain runoff collected from one of Seattle's busiest highways. One by one, the fish were removed from a tank filled with coffee-colored water and inspected: They were rigid. Their typically red gills were gray.

"He's way dead," David Baldwin, a research zoologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Northwest Fisheries Science Center, declared at the four-hour mark.

This was the fate of coho salmon exposed to the everyday toxic brew of dirt, metals, oil and other gunk that washes off highway pavement after rains, and directly into Puget Sound.

When that runoff was filtered through a simple mixture of gravel, sand and compost, however, the outlook was much brighter. Salmon exposed to treated water were healthy and responsive, even after 24 hours.

The research being conducted by scientists with NOAA, Washington State University and U.S. Fish and Wildlife offers a promising solution to stormwater pollution, a major problem for Puget Sound and other streams and lakes in the nation.

With pollution from industrial pipes closely regulated, cities and states are more often tackling stormwater runoff that results from everyday activities: oils from leaky cars, pesticides from lawns and other pollutants that wash off roads and sidewalks and into streams and lakes.

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