Oregon Court of Appeals to hear challenge to municipal stormwater permits

On Monday, May 11, 2009, the Oregon Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments in a challenge to municipal stormwater permits issued by Oregon DEQ in Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington Counties...

PORTLAND, OR, May 11, 2009 -- On Monday May 11, 2009 the Oregon Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments in a challenge to municipal stormwater permits issued by Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) in Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington Counties.

The hearing will take place at 9:00 am on May 11 in the Supreme Court Courtroom, 1163 State Street, Salem.

Columbia Riverkeeper, Willamette Riverkeeper, and Tualatin Riverkeepers will present oral arguments in support of their appeal from a summary judgment in Multnomah County Circuit Court. Their petition alleges that DEQ failed to comply with state and federal water quality protection laws in issuing municipal separate storm sewer permits (MS4) in the tri-county metropolitan area.

Despite three petitions for reconsidering the permit, DEQ has failed to require that the municipalities meet water quality standards as required by state law. DEQ set the water quality standards to protect human health and salmon habitat but then illegally waived these requirements for municipal stormwater.

"The public has a right to clean streams and rivers." said Travis Williams, Executive Director of Willamette Riverkeeper. "By issuing weak, unenforceable stormwater permits, DEQ has assured us that our urban streams will never adequately support fish, wildlife, recreation, and public health. "

"DEQ allows that discharge of billions of gallons of stormwater containing toxic pollutants that does not meet Oregon's standards for safe water." said Brett VandenHeuvel, Executive Director of Columbia Riverkeeper. "Without requiring dischargers to meet water quality standards, how can DEQ assure that kids playing in streams are safe? How can they assure that fish are safe to eat?"

Chris Winter is an attorney with Crag Law Center and represents the Riverkeepers. "DEQ is out of touch with the public. The people of Oregon want clean water and healthy runs of salmon. DEQ, on the other hand, wants to waive water quality protections. At some point this has to stop."

"This action addresses the biggest source of pollution in our area, urban runoff," said Brian Wegener, Tualatin Riverkeepers Watershed Watch Coordinator. "Street-to-stream pollution must be eliminated. Until DEQ enforces water quality standards for urban runoff, we cannot expect our neighborhood streams to be a safe playground for our children and healthy habitat for salmon."

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