OLYMPIA, WA, Feb. 3, 2009 -- In a recent ruling, the Washington state Pollution Control Hearings Board affirmed stormwater regulations the Washington Department of Ecology issued to small municipalities across the state in January 2007.
While Ecology prevailed on most of the appeal issues, the Board did direct Ecology to make some permit modifications designed to encourage broader use of low-impact development techniques.
Low-impact development includes use of vegetation, porous pavement, rain gardens, vegetated roofs, and other projects that collect rainwater. The result is less polluted runoff that flows downstream into lakes, rivers, creeks and Puget Sound.
Polluted stormwater from runoff is a major threat to Puget Sound and to the state's urban waters. It carries a toxic mix of pollution downstream into the state's lakes, rivers and marine waters. Uncontrolled stormwater can carry muddy water downstream that can suffocate salmon and salmon egg nests. It can also cause flooding and slope failures that threaten people's homes and the environment.
Originally, the appellants raised more than 40 separate appeal issues over the state's municipal stormwater permits.
Previously, the Board ruled that the state's largest urban areas had to use low-impact development when feasible.
In its current decision, the Board did not require the use of low-impact development by the state's smaller municipalities, but did direct Ecology to modify the permit to encourage broader use of low-impact development by small municipalities on the west side of the state.
Cleaning up and managing stormwater is one of Ecology's highest priorities. Washington's municipal stormwater permits - the rule book for cities and counties for controlling their stormwater - are some of the most protective in the nation. Similarly, Ecology's industrial and construction stormwater permits have terms designed to prevent pollution. Ecology provided more than $30 million in grants for local governments during the last biennium to fix stormwater problems.
The state's Phase I municipal stormwater permit covers the state's most populated areas in Clark, King, Pierce, and Snohomish Counties, as well as Seattle and Tacoma. Ecology issued the original phase I permit in 1990. Ecology re-issued it in January 2007.
The Phase II permits cover 98 of the next-most populated cities across the state and portions of 12 counties in urban areas around those cities. Ecology issued separate Phase II permits for Western and Eastern Washington in January 2007.