Smart Stormwater Solutions
Toxic stormwater runoff is the state’s largest source of water pollution. To clean up our waterways, we need a new approach that relies on green infrastructure and innovative techniques to reduce pollution, improve drainage, and filter toxic runoff from roads and rooftops.
WEC works with partners to advocate for strong standards to reduce toxic runoff and funding to help local governments put smart, cost-effective, proven solutions into action to protect and restore Puget Sound. With our partners, we have successfully litigated for a stronger stormwater permit—the primary regulatory tool to protect water quality and public health against polluted runoff—and advocated for hundreds of millions of dollars from the state for green infrastructure solutions. WEC also spearheaded efforts to create a competitive grant program exclusively focused on reducing polluted runoff. This program rigorously evaluates and prioritizes funding awards to ensure money is used wisely on the best projects.
Have you seen Nature’s Scorecard? Our first of its kind scorecard ranks cities and counties on combating Puget Sound’s largest source of water pollution: polluted stormwater pollution. Learn more here.
Although these successes were critical steps forward, lots of hard work lies ahead. WEC works at the local, state, and federal level to:
- Secure reliable funding to adequately address the scope of the problem and reduce pollution from existing infrastructure including roads, parking lots, and rooftops.
- Prevent hazardous pollutants from contaminating our communities and ending up in our waterways.
- Educate decision makers and the public to build broad support for green infrastructure technologies
- Advocate for full implementation of all the stormwater regulations to reduce toxic runoff.
Together we can correct past mistakes, clean up our waterways, and recover Puget Sound to health.
Eliminating Toxic Chemicals
Washington has a long history of standing up for clean water and health communities. In 1988, voters passed a landmark law that utilized a polluter-pays approach to clean up toxic sites, prevent further contamination, and support communities facing toxic threats. WEC led an effort to pass the original Model Toxics Control Act (MTCA), and we have continually defended the law from being weakened by special interests.
MTCA is responsible for the clean-up of thousands of toxic sites and chemical spills across Washington—from the Foss Waterway to Bellingham Bay. The law also funds inspections, enforcement, and actions designed to prevent pollution from hazardous chemicals, protect the health of our communities and workplaces, and promote responsible waste disposal and management.
WEC has worked tirelessly to defend MTCA and help evolve the law to keep our communities safe from pollution. We also advocate for reasonable water quality regulations to protect our environment and the wellbeing of all Washingtonians. Clean water means safe water to drink and fish to eat and healthy opportunities to swim and recreate.
Not Discharge Zone
We are thrilled that Puget Sound has a new level of protection: no more blackwater (sewage) dumping into the water! Maia Bellon, the Director of the Department of Ecology, signed the final rule in early April establishing Puget Sound as a No Discharge Zone. This rule prohibits ships and boats from discharging raw or partially treated sewage across 2,300 square miles of marine waters as well as contiguous waters around Lake Washington and Lake Union. After six years of public process and tens of thousands of supportive comments from you and members of our coalition, the rule went into effect on May 10, 2018. Puget Sound will now join more than 90 other Zones around the country, including in the Great Lakes and the entire California coast. It will be the first one in Washington state and the Pacific Northwest. Learn more about the No Discharge Zone.
Carbon pollution is making parts of Puget Sound more acidic—a danger for marine life and economic generators such as fishing and recreation. Since the start of the industrial age, we have witnessed a 30% increase in the acidity of the oceans. However, that rate is accelerating dramatically. By the end of this century, the acidity in Puget Sound is expected to increase by a staggering 100-150%.
WEC is dedicated to taking bold action to reduce the carbon emissions feeding the global climate crisis and threatening Puget Sound. We also support land-use and the pollution reduction policies needed to slow the acidification of the Sound that threatens shellfish and other aquatic species. In 2012, the state released recommendations for how to act in the face of ocean acidification. WEC is working to turn these recommendations into action.
Failing septic systems have long been recognized as a source of pollution in Puget Sound, linked to the closure of shellfish beds and swimming beaches. Our state has an estimated one million on-site septic systems. Prior to 2005, there was limited guidance on how to maintain and repair these systems, and little was done to track down failing systems.
In 2005 and 2006, WEC partnered with other members of the Environmental Priorities Coalition as well as local governments to pass legislation improving management over septic systems. As a result, all twelve Puget Sound counties now have management plans to address failing systems, millions in funding was secured to assist low-income families with repair costs, hundreds of systems were replaced, and five shellfish harvest areas were improved.
Fixing septic systems alone will not save Hood Canal and Puget Sound. However, it’s one key piece to the recovery puzzle. This work continues as a stable funding source to address system failures as they arise has yet to be realized.