Washington Revises Industrial Stormwater Permit

The Washington Department of Ecology, based in Olympia, seeks public comments through Jan. 10 on a revised permit that will reduce the concentration of toxic metals allowed in stormwater runoff from industrial sites.

"This permit will make Washington's waters cleaner and healthier for people, communities and salmon,” said Dave Peeler, manager of the department’s water quality program. “We have good evidence that the protections built into this permit are doable. In fact, industries have already demonstrated that they can achieve levels the permit sets for copper and zinc. This permit is both realistic and rigorous."

The permit targets copper, zinc, other metals and silt. Copper and zinc are harmful even at relatively low concentrations to threatened and endangered salmon, and aquatic life. Copper can cause salmon to lose their ability to sense their spawning grounds, while zinc and silt can bind to fish gills and cause suffocation.

Fish that depend on clean water in Washington have an annual economic value of more than $1 billion.

Copper and zinc are pervasive metals in industrial settings. Copper is found in paints, brake linings and machinery. Zinc can be found everywhere from cyclone fences to metal roofs.

Polluted stormwater runoff from industrial sites can send oil, grease, and toxic substances into waters. The runoff is bad for people, too, who risk exposure to the pollution when swimming, and from eating contaminated fish and shellfish.

Polluted stormwater is the state's largest source of urban water pollution.

The permit, called the Industrial Stormwater General Permit, is one of the state's key tools to protect water quality in Puget Sound, and in Washington's rivers and major lakes.

The permit regulates industrial facilities that discharge stormwater into surface waters and into storm sewers. It targets runoff from industrial activities, materials and loading docks. It does not cover parking lots or landscaping. The permit covers approximately 1,150 industrial facilities across the state. Approximately 70 percent of permit holders discharge stormwater in the 12 counties that border Puget Sound.

The permit covers a wide array of industry sectors. Examples include businesses that deal with lumber, paper, printing, chemicals, petroleum, leather, stone, metals, ships, landfills, transportation, mills and food.

The department prefers comments be submitted by email to industrialstormwatercomments@ecy.wa.gov. Written comments may be mailed and must be postmarked or received via email no later than 5 p.m., Jan. 10. Submit written, hardcopy comments to Lionel Klikoff, Department of Ecology, P.O. Box 47600, Olympia, WA 98504-7600.

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