A federal judge has ruled that Clark County was in violation of the Clean Water Act between August 17, 2008 and December 28, 2011, a period of over three years. The County violated its National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit when it refused to adopt state standards for managing polluted runoff, claiming that the standards placed an undue burden on private developers. Clark County will be liable for damages and could face stiff penalties.
Earthjustice is representing three conservation organizations in asking the Washington State Pollution Control Hearings Board to throw out a recent agreement between Clark County and the Washington Department of Ecology in which the state authorized inadequate development standards that will generate illegal storm water pollution.
Storm water—runoff from developed areas containing a toxic brew of metals, grease, pesticides and herbicides—is the number one water quality problem in Puget Sound. The Environmental Protection Agency recently released a report that identifies storm water as a leading cause of toxic pollution in the Columbia Basin. When storm water runs off parking lots, buildings, and other urban development, it carries toxic metals, particularly copper and zinc, which harm salmon and other aquatic life.
In early January, the Department of Ecology agreed to allow Clark County to retain inadequate storm water standards for new development in exchange for a promise to implement county-funded storm water mitigation projects, even though Clark County is already required to implement these projects under federal law. Additionally, the agreement allows Clark County to mitigate new development anywhere in the county, up to three years after the development occurs.
Washington Court of Appeals has upheld tough new rules governing polluted storm water runoff in Washington state.
Jan Hasselman, Seattle attorney for Earthjustice, said in a statement that it’s time for Clark County to stop fighting environmental protections. “At some point, there’s going to be some accountability,” Hasselman added. “Our first choice is always to sit down and work out a solution that does the most for the environment.”