It’s been quite a journey for the Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership (LCEP) to finish its GREAT (Get Real Environmental Attenuation of Toxics) Grattix box project, but the effort will continue to pay off well into the future! LCEP delivered a total of 26 free Grattix boxes in 2023 and early 2024 to businesses along the lower Columbia River to help reduce contaminants in stormwater discharges.

The Grattix boxes (named for Port of Vancouver USA employees, Matt Graves and Mary Mattix, who invented them) reduce zinc runoff from metal roofs by up to 95% and copper by 85%. The boxes filter the runoff from roofs through several layers of mulch, compost, sand and rock to remove contaminants. The top layer consists of a variety of native plantings, thus giving them the nickname “rain garden in a box.” The boxes from LCEP’s project will treat stormwater from a total of 55,412 square feet of roof area, which is equal to more than 1.3 million gallons of stormwater per year! Grattix boxes have a lifespan of at least 10 years and require minimal maintenance (just the top layers need to be replaced periodically).

Since receiving a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency in late 2020, LCEP set a goal to install 15-20 boxes at businesses along the lower Columbia River and also provide them with stormwater education. The Port of Vancouver USA was proud to be a partner throughout the project, providing not only technical guidance, but also assistance with building and placing them. Eleven of the boxes were constructed from scratch, and another 10 donated by the Oregon State University Department of Biological & Ecological Engineering were refurbished at the port with LCEP’s volunteer work parties. The port donated five additional boxes for placement at locations throughout the watershed.  

“We couldn’t have done this project without the help of Matt Graves and the Port of Vancouver,” said Chris Hathaway, Community Programs Director for LCEP. “They were great teachers and mentors throughout the process and went above and beyond to make this a successful project.”

LCEP’s project embraced two of the port’s ongoing missions with the Grattix box: to educate others about the benefits and to provide resources and support so other organizations can build their own boxes. The port produced a publicly available, step-by-step construction guide and partnered with both Washington State University and Washington Stormwater Center to create a how-to video for Grattix box construction.

The port continues to be a source of information and support for stormwater treatment, making instructional materials readily available and partnering with various organizations in the pursuit of clean water. For more information about the port’s efforts, please visit its water quality page.