Tag Archives: Seattle Public Utilities

Shape Our Water: Pah-tu Pitt

by Ben Adlin

Shape Our Water is a community-centered project from Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) and KVRU 105.7 FM, a hyperlocal low-power FM station in South Seattle, to plan the next 50 years of Seattle’s drainage and wastewater systems. Funded by SPU, the project spotlights members of local community-based organizations and asks them to share how water shapes their lives. Our latest conversation is with Pah-tu Pitt, a small-business owner of Native Kut, course instructor at the University of Washington, and member of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs.


When smoke from wildfires turned skies in the Pacific Northwest an otherworldly orange last summer, many of the region’s longest residents knew that more than climate change was to blame. Pah-tu Pitt, a member of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, recognized that the fires also symbolized a rejection of Indigenous wisdom of how to care for the land.

“We really saw, on a large scale, what removing traditional fire practices from landscapes can lead to,” Pitt told the Shape Our Water project. Prevailing forest management practices [particularly in dry landscapes] relied on the idea that minor fires should be extinguished before they could spread and grow, while Pitt’s tribe had long understood that the smaller fires actually cleared underbrush — reducing the likelihood of larger blazes.

“My tribe has been a leader in using fires to reduce fuels within the system, to make it so fires tend to not be so catastrophic,” Pitt explained. Pitt, who currently lives in Seattle, expressed a sense of disconnect when she reflected on the many ways tribal lands benefit from traditional fire practices and how devastating wildfires have now become to their ecology and regional air quality.

The observation underscored Pitt’s belief in the need for Western institutions to better respect and incorporate the knowledge embodied in traditional place-based practices. As an educator and small business owner who has a background in environmental science, she now works to amplify the voices and perspectives of underrepresented groups. 

“Just because you don’t see yourself reflected in the field doesn’t mean that your people didn’t do science,” she said. “White supremacy just plays such a large role in excluding and dismissing our ideas. I don’t think that there are sustainable futures without us being able to reclaim those spaces.”

Continue reading Shape Our Water: Pah-tu Pitt

City Finally Funds Street Sinks Six Months After Funding From City Council

by Erica C. Barnett

(This article was previously published at PubliCola and has been reprinted with permission.)


Six months after the City Council allocated $100,000 to “develop and implement a publicly accessible sink program that utilizes the Street Sink style handwashing station model developed by the Clean Hands Collective,” Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) has finally chosen two vendors to receive the money.

Slightly more than half, $60,000, will go to the Clean Hands Collective, an organization founded by Real Change that includes landscape architects and public health experts; the rest, $40,000, will go to Seattle Makers, a South Lake Union “makerspace” that designed a prototype “handwashing station” at an estimated cost of $7,250 per unit — about 10 times the price of Clean Hands’ Street Sink. According to Seattle Makers’ website, the City reached out to them to design the sink.

Tiffani McCoy, the advocacy director at Real Change, said she thinks “we can easily put up 45 sinks for the $60,000,” assuming it will cost about $10,000 to roll out the program — a process that will include building and maintaining the sinks as well as finding new locations for many of them.

Continue reading City Finally Funds Street Sinks Six Months After Funding From City Council

‘Rain Gardens’ Turn Backyards Into Water Treatment Facilities, Benefiting Marine Life

by  Ben Adlin


Seattle’s frequent rainfall is responsible for much of the region’s natural beauty, from old-growth forests to the creeks and rivers that flow into Puget Sound and the Salish Sea. But rain can also be catastrophic to area ecosystems. When precipitation falls on roofs, roads, and other hard surfaces, it sweeps pollutants like heavy metals directly into local waterways, disrupting marine environments and devastating wildlife.

Continue reading ‘Rain Gardens’ Turn Backyards Into Water Treatment Facilities, Benefiting Marine Life

Shape Our Water: Magdalena ‘Maggie’ Angel-Cano

by Ben Adlin


Shape Our Water is a community-centered project from Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) and KVRU 105.7 FM, a hyperlocal low power FM station in South Seattle, to plan the next 50 years of Seattle’s drainage and wastewater systems. Funded by SPU, the project spotlights members of local community-based organizations and asks them to share how water shapes their lives. Our latest conversation is with Maggie Angel-Cano, community engagement and communications specialist for the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition. 

Growing up in South Park, Maggie Angel-Cano spent years without realizing Seattle’s only river ran through her neighborhood. 

“We had no idea there was a river in the community,” she said. “We just, you know, lived our daily life: work, school, back home.”

Continue reading Shape Our Water: Magdalena ‘Maggie’ Angel-Cano

Volunteer Group That Removes Trash From Homeless Encampments Draws Criticism

by Ashley Archibald


Mutual aid practitioners who have long worked with homeless individuals have called on the Seattle City Council to disavow We Heart Seattle (WHS), a volunteer group that removes trash from homeless encampments across the city. WHS’s critics insist the group has illegally removed belongings, focused more on cleaning up sites rather than the welfare of unsheltered residents, and used inappropriate tactics to remove people experiencing homelessness from public spaces. 

Continue reading Volunteer Group That Removes Trash From Homeless Encampments Draws Criticism

Shape Our Water: Shelagh Brown, Reconnecting Communities With Nature

by Ben Adlin


Shape Our Water is a community-centered project from Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) and KVRU 105.7 FM, a hyperlocal low power FM station in South Seattle, to plan the next 50 years of Seattle’s drainage and wastewater systems. Funded by SPU, the project spotlights members of local community-based organizations and asks them to share how water shapes their lives. Our latest conversation is with Shelagh Brown, a member of the Alphabet Alliance of Color. 

Shelagh Brown won’t reveal her secret hideaway. All she’ll say is it’s a nearby lake with a lone public entrance, where the water is clean and powerboats are forbidden — a little slice of paradise. She’d like to keep it that way.

Continue reading Shape Our Water: Shelagh Brown, Reconnecting Communities With Nature

Strong Windstorm Knocks Out Power to 74,000 in and Around Seattle, South End Especially Hard Hit

by Andrew Engelson


After a strong windstorm hit Washington state with winds of up to 70 miles per hour in the early hours of Wednesday, Jan. 13, more than 500,000 people in Western Washington lost power and could be without electricity into the rest of today. Numerous areas in South Seattle were still without power by midday Wednesday with outages hitting the Central District, Rainier Valley, Skyway, Georgetown, Beacon Hill, as well as Highline, Burien, and other areas of South King County.

Continue reading Strong Windstorm Knocks Out Power to 74,000 in and Around Seattle, South End Especially Hard Hit

WEEKLY NEWS GLEAMS: Longest Night Solstice Ceremony, New Year/New Activities, & More

A weekly round-up of news and announcements we don’t want to get lost in the fast-churning news cycle!

curated by Emerald Staff


Longest Night: Solstice Ceremony 2020

Mon., Dec. 21 — 7–11:59 p.m. (6:30 doors)

From the hosts: This Winter Solstice, Northwest Film Forum, Holocene (Portland), REDEFINE magazine, Pink Noise (PDX), Crash Symbols Records & Seattle Documentary Association join forces to present five virtual rooms filled with music, movement, films, and meditation.

Continue reading WEEKLY NEWS GLEAMS: Longest Night Solstice Ceremony, New Year/New Activities, & More

Even with Changes, South Seattle is Ground Zero for Utility Shutoffs

by Erica C. Barnett

Earlier this year, the West Seattle Helpline, which provides financial assistance to people who need help paying their utility bills, learned about a troubling change the city’s two utilities, Seattle City Light (City Light) and Seattle Public Utilities (SPU), were making as part of their transition to a new joint billing and customer contact system. Continue reading Even with Changes, South Seattle is Ground Zero for Utility Shutoffs