Board Affirms Use of LID for Stormwater

The Washington Pollution Control Hearings Board found provisions in the Department of Ecology's Phase II municipal stormwater general permit to be legally inadequate. The permit regulates stormwater controls in 85 cities and portions of several counties around Puget Sound, according to a Feb. 3 press release from Earthjustice.

In the ruling, the board affirmed its August 2008 ruling that the largest Puget Sound cities and counties had to take significantly more aggressive steps to reduce stormwater runoff, including mandatory use of low impact development (LID) techniques.

While finding that the smaller Phase II cities and counties did not need to immediately mandate the default use of LID as the Phase I jurisdictions do, the board concluded that the state agency needed to do more to implement LID in the near future.

"The board effectively affirmed what we all know to be true: existing stormwater programs are not adequate to meet our shared goals of protecting and restoring the health of Puget Sound by 2020," said Sue Joerger of Puget Soundkeeper Alliance. "It's time to aggressively implement stronger controls before more damage is done."

Stormwater -- runoff from roads and rooftops that is discharged to the rivers, streams, and lakes that feed Puget Sound -- has been cited as the No. 1 threat to the health of Puget Sound. Stormwater contains toxic metals, oil and grease, pesticides and herbicides, and bacteria and nutrients. Recent research of stormwater runoff from industrial areas and highways indicate that when it rains, toxic metals, particularly copper and zinc, are being discharged in amounts that seriously degrade water quality and kill marine life. Stormwater volumes also erode stream banks, deposit sediment, and widen channels enough to damage fish and wildlife habitat. Some studies show urban creeks to be so degraded that adult salmon are killed within minutes of entering the stream.

The board directed Ecology to amend the permit to require

  • the identification and elimination of barriers to implementing LID
  • identification of LID practices that can be implemented immediately
  • the establishment of goals and metrics to "identify, promote, and measure" LID use, including schedules by which Phase II jurisdictions will require such techniques.

The board ruled against the environmental appellants on several other challenges, including the permit's coverage area, the regulatory thresholds, and the lack of monitoring. No decision has been made on appeals.

To read the order, visit http://www.earthjustice.org/library/legal_docs/phase-ii-final-order.pdf

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