Locations along the Lower Columbia River will include St. Helens, Rainier and Longview, Washington.

COURTESY PHOTO: LOWER COLUMBIA ESTUARY PARTNERSHIP - Grattix boxes like this one help filter out harmful metals that can be carried from the roofs of industrial buildings into local waterways through stormwater runoff.The Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership has announced a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to construct and install "rain gardens in a box" to reduce pollution in runoff and improve water quality.

Through the Grattix Box project, in partnership with the Port of Vancouver and Oregon State University, the nonprofit organization will install Grattix boxes for stormwater treatment at industrial locations in St. Helens and other Columbia River communities, including Longview, Washington, and Rainier.

Ten boxes have already been constructed by Oregon State University students, and the remaining boxes will be built in collaboration with the Port of Vancouver, the partnership said last month.

Grattix boxes are large containers layered with wetland plants, soils, sand, rocks and other materials that together filter out up to 95% of zinc and 85% of copper from runoff. They are installed below downspouts to treat runoff, particularly from galvanized metal roofing common in industrial zones.

The boxes are easily replicable and will serve as a model for other industrial properties to treat their runoff in an efficient and affordable way.

The use of Grattix boxes was pioneered by the Port of Vancouver, a partner in the EPA-funded project.

Polluted runoff is a serious concern in the Pacific Northwest, as the partnership noted. Galvanized metal roofing is treated with zinc to protect from corrosion. Copper is also widely used in industrial applications. But when they make it into rivers and streams, zinc and copper in runoff have toxic effects on salmon and other aquatic species.

The grant is meant to reduce toxics in the Columbia River. Funding comes from the Columbia River Basin Restoration Fund.

Placement sites for the boxes have yet to be determined, but the Estuary Partnership will target industrial properties from St. Helens to Longview sited along the Columbia River to have the greatest direct impact on water quality.

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