Target: Governor Chris Gregoire and state & local legislators
Goal: Save Puget Sound by enforcing National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits
The Puget Sound has been changing since industry moved into the region over 150 years ago. Back then it was sawdust, mud, and refuse created by hundreds, then thousands, of lumbermen. Now the Sound is being polluted by the toxins created by millions of technologically adapted people around the state.
Ecological studies have discovered that most toxic materials (some 75%) get into water systems through storm runoff. Decades of dumping large amounts of complex and dangerous chemicals into waterways have ended in Puget Sound. These chemicals have damaged the health of the Sound, and the damage does not stop at the water. Many species that live in or rely on the Sound’s ecology and the industries that rely on those species are also in jeopardy. And there is no reason this damage will be limited to Puget Sound. The Sound is just the first major warning sign of what can happen to other waterways, streams, lakes, and watersheds. But there is a solution.
The best way to contain and remove the dangerous materials from storm runoff is through National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits. These permits help to regulate places where hazardous wastewater could get into the Sound. Cities, towns, and industrial organizations must register and obtain one or more of these permits. These permits are a part of an overall program of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) plan to prevent known toxins from entering the Sound’s ecology. Using a program incorporating these permits, and renewal and enforcement of these permits, marine and ecological experts have agreed the Sound could return to an ecologically healthy state by 2020. The difficulty is in the application of these permits.
Because of recent economic conditions, the Association of Washington Cities and the Washington State Association of Counties have argued that the permits and renewals of NPDES permits should not be done in 2012. The organizations claim the cost of containing or cleaning wastewater would be prohibitive when municipalities cannot easily find funding. But these permits are the best tools for preventing further damage to Puget Sound and even waterways, streams, lakes, and watersheds around the state.
Application of these permits state-wide is necessary because of the size and wide range of sources that run into Puget Sound. But all storm runoff ends up somewhere. The NPDES aims to protect public waterways around the state. These measures protect streams important to salmon spawning, recreational fishing, other forms of water recreation, and watersheds where communities get their drinking water.
And communities do not necessarily have to fund the steps to get these permits themselves. The state legislature can step in to help, and funding is possible from the EPA. So fiscal problems in a community is hardly a foregone conclusion. And there are a few other concerns.
Companies around Puget Sound are already losing income as ecological damage reduces ocean fish and shellfish stocks. What if these damages continue until species fail completely? Should we give up the Orca or a few species of salmon instead of cleaning water that supports their environment? Eating some fish or shellfish caught recreationally is already dangerous. How long until this is an epidemic, not just a nuisance? Water recreation areas could be at risk. How much of the environment should we cut ourselves off from for decades because communities have fiscal problems this year? Watersheds that provide drinking water to communities might be at risk. Should we gamble that the ecological system can take just a little more before making whole communities sick? When all the risks are weighed against the costs, it is obvious these permits and the protections they afford must be enforced.
Without hearing from you and other concerned citizens, the governor might capitulate to the powerful voices that are the Association of Washington Cities and the Washington State Association of Counties. Let the governor and local governments know these protections are important to you and the financial, moral, and physical well being of your community. We can help. By signing this petition you can join with other citizens and dozens of other industrial and ecological organizations in telling the state government and local governments that the ecology is important for many reasons and it should be protected.
Puget Sound is dangerously unhealthy and cities and counties of Washington are trying to keep it that way.
There is a massive effort on to curb the toxins being dumped into Puget Sound; the best of these protections are permits from the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System. These permits make sure runoff is contained or clean before it gets to the Sound, but Washington cities and counties claim they should not have to get and renew these permits.
These permits also protect water sources around Washington. If cities and towns do not have to get these permits next year, when will they? Will we be able to pull Puget Sound back from the brink again?
To ensure clean water for Washington, our cities and counties must immediately begin complying with the EPA’s NPDES permit program. To delay fixing our water pollution problems will just push this terrible problem on to the next generation and that is unacceptable.
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About the author: Keith Gipson is a technical editor and writer with years of experience working with software documentation. He has long been interested in making a change in environmental policy, but preferably in how people think about the environment.