White Center

Meet the First Seattle Restaurant to Tackle Stormwater Pollution

By Will Chen

Toxic stormwater runoff is Seattle’s #1 source of pollution.

During heavy rains, stormwater surges through city pipes. These surges can cause overflows that dump untreated sewage into Puget Sound, degrading the health of aquatic life as well as the people that swim in these waters. But thanks to ECOSS’ multicultural outreach and King County’s RainWise program, one restaurant has taken unprecedented initiative to reduce this pollution.

Young’s Restaurant is the first restaurant and business in Seattle to install green stormwater infrastructure on their property – namely, three cisterns that control an average of 11,145 gallons of stormwater a year.

Three cisterns behind Young’s Restaurant provide water for vegetables and herbs. Photography by Sam Le.

Three cisterns behind Young’s Restaurant provide water for vegetables and herbs. Photography by Sam Le.

This achievement is the culmination of over a year’s collaboration. Serving the White Center neighborhood for over 30 years, the restaurant is beloved for its perfect pairing of American diner fare and Vietnamese-Chinese cuisine. Furthermore, customers and restaurant staff appreciate the close connections to the restaurant’s owners, Ella and Van T. Young.

Naturally, when a customer turned out to be with local environmental nonprofit, ECOSS, conversations sparked a vision to establish green stormwater infrastructure on restaurant property. The Young’s quickly learned about the RainWise program. Run by King County and Seattle Public Utilities, the program provides up to 100% rebates for installing cisterns and rain gardens that control stormwater and stormwater pollution. The program also trains contractors to install that infrastructure. However, RainWise operates primarily in English – a significant barrier for non-English speakers.

Young’s Restaurant is the first restaurant to install green stormwater infrastructure. Photograph by Ned Ahrens.

Enter ECOSS. Specializing in multicultural outreach, ECOSS’ Vietnamese- and Chinese-speaking staff recruited contractors Anthony Pham (AT & P) and Hop Tran (Hop Gardening) and helped them obtain RainWise certification to install rain gardens and cisterns. ECOSS continued to provide language support as the contractors installed three 530-gallon cisterns for Young’s Restaurant and the restaurant owners learned how to care and use the cisterns.

Ella and Van T. Young had nothing but praise for the RainWise program: “I have neighbors and relatives who pass by and ask me, ‘What’s this?’ I tell them it’s a tank that collects rainwater I can use to water my plants. The RainWise program helps pay for the cistern and installation, it’s a good program and benefits our community.” Green stormwater infrastructure is not just about protecting Puget Sound waters – the installations benefit communities too.

Young’s Restaurant owners marking their achievement in advancing protection against stormwater pollution. Photograph by Kevin Duong / ECOSS.

To celebrate the achievement with their community, Young’s collaborated with ECOSS and RainWise to host a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Community members gathered to feast on beloved Chinese cuisine while they feasted their eyes on the tomatoes, eggplants and other produce watered by Young’s cisterns. Anthony and Hop were present to explain the process of installing rain gardens and cisterns. Throughout the afternoon and into the evening, the restaurant was abuzz with conversation in Chinese, Vietnamese and English.

ECOSS is proud of Young’s Restaurant for being Seattle’s first RainWise business. The Youngs’ enthusiasm is unmatched as they share their story and inspire community members to install their own cisterns and rain gardens. Equitable access to environmental solutions is not a simple endeavor. It requires building trust with underserved communities, partnerships with private and public organizations and more. But it’s successes like that of Young’s Restaurant that drive ECOSS to seek sustainable solutions for all.

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© Kevin Arnold