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Program helps homeowners prevent water pollution

Gresham residents see a lot of rain over the course of a year, but do they know where all that water is going after it leaves their roof? The city of Gresham does, and its Healthy Streams Program is working to raise awareness about and reduce runoff pollution in local creeks. It will offer a free downspout disconnection service for Gresham residents beginning in August.

According to Healthy Streams Program Coordinator Jamie Stamberger, downspouts direct roof runoff through underground pipes to the stormdrains, where they collect pollutants and then carry them into local waterways. The downspouts not only funnel pollutants into the local waterways, but also cause the creeks to be too full.

To prevent water pollution, the program also offers other resources, like healthy home and garden classes, free trees to plant and even 10 grants for $200 to help residents to construct their own rain gardens, a bowl shaped garden filled with native plants and river rock. Five grants were already awarded in the spring.

Rain gardens are not only another way to absorb water, but they also add some decoration in the yard.

'All of our neighbors have stopped by and talked about how awesome it looks,' said Gresham resident Becky Sanchez, who had two downspouts disconnected and installed a double-pond rain garden this spring.

Gresham resident Linda Seymour agreed that downspout disconnection and rain gardens offer a double benefit.

'I liked the idea of the water not going down into the sewer system, and I liked the idea of making the yard look a little nicer,' Seymour said. Seymour won a contest through the program last fall for a free rain garden in her yard.

The different aspects of the Healthy Streams Program were originally separate, but were united under Healthy Streams last year. Funding for the program came through a two-year grant from the East Multnomah County Soil and Water Conservation District as well as an additional grant from Metro Nature in Neighborhoods. However, the funds will only last until August 2012.

According to Stamberger, only certain homes will be approved for the downspout disconnection, as some areas do not properly drain water and could flood. The program sends a team out to the residences beforehand to do a safety inspection to determine whether it is eligible.

One possible downside to disconnecting the downspouts is the excess water that accumulates in the yard as a result. However, Stamberger said that most people don't find this to be a problem.

Benefits of the program include not only helping the environment, Sanchez said, but it can also give residents a chance to receive up to a 27-percent discount on their utility bill.

To apply for the rain garden grant or the downspout removal, call Stamberger at 503-618-2793 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. The deadline to apply is Aug. 15, and the first day of work will be Aug. 17.

Events

• To promote water pollution reduction and awareness, Healthy Streams will have publicity and educational events in Gresham.

Friday, July 22 - Hollybrook Park Summer Festival from 4 to 8 p.m. at Hollybrook Park.

Saturday, Sept. 10 - Johnson Creek Watershed Bike Tour, meet at Main City Park at 8:45 a.m.