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Local company invents method for filtering storm water


Environmentalists often worry that little stands between polluted storm water runoff and Washington's waterways.

A Lake City business called Enviro-Drain Inc. manufactures a product which attempts to do just that.

Enviro-Drain President Chris Probst says his company's "Salmon Saver" system diverts polluted storm water run-off as it runs through grates into catch basins. It collects everything from pesticides to human hair.

Probst says that he and his partner Jim Hutter, the inventor of the filtration system, started their company in 1990. Hutter owns Apple Landscaping, and years ago had noticed some his employees putting fertilizer down the drain even though he told them not to. From that experience he was inspired to invent a new filter to keep pollutants out of receiving waters.

Probst and Hutter finally patented their design in 1997. The Enviro-Drain filter system is made from stainless steel, which Probst said is good because it is long-lasting and not vulnerable to chemical spills which might eat through weaker materials. The filters are meant to catch eight to nine pounds of material and can last as long as a year in a low-traffic area. Probst said that a busy parking lot might have to change their filter as often as once a month.

While Probst says that his company sells the filtration system around the country, Enviro-Drain has local customers as well.

Tom DeGrazia, owner of DeGrazia's Auto Body in Lake City, said environmental concerns led him to begin using Enviro-Drain's filters on his lot over three years ago.

"We're pretty close to the (Thornton Creek) watershed," DeGrazia said. "It's working great ... it's amazing how much stuff it collects."

Enviro-Drain is not the only game in town. Foss Environmental makes its own storm water filter out of fabric.

Not matter what model is used, is seams clear that as the Northwest paves more, storm water filters will become more of a necessity.

Probst says last year Enviro-Drain donated "Salmon Savers" to Olympic View Elementary and Lakeside School, where students help monitor the filters.

"It's for education purposes," said Probst, "so kids can really learn what's going down the drain." (