Protect Puget Sound salmon and orcas from toxic pollutants

What's At Stake

For too long, the Everett Wastewater Treatment Plant – one of the larger pollution control facilities in Washington State – has been allowed to discharge harmful pollutants into the Snohomish River and Puget Sound. We can change that.

Research has identified a hotspot of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) in the lower Snohomish River. These PBDEs are accumulating in the bodies of juvenile Chinook salmon at levels that harm their immune systems and increase susceptibility to disease, which is causing population declines. Puget Sound Chinook salmon are listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.  

These declines in turn harm Southern Resident orcas, which depend on Chinook salmon as their main prey species and are listed as endangered under the ESA. This population is teetering on the brink of extinction with only 75 whales remaining across three pods. Many uses of PBDEs, which are also known to bioaccumulate in orcas and humans, have been banned but uses in the aeronautics industry continue and large concentrations are prevalent in the plant’s discharges in the Snohomish River, Puget Sound, and the surrounding Salish Sea.   

In addition to PBDEs, the plant is also discharging nutrient pollution and PFAS (known as “forever chemicals”), which cause harm to salmon, orcas, and people. PFAS have been associated with a range of human and animal harms, including various cancers and developmental abnormalities. Nutrient pollution reduces dissolved oxygen in water bodies and leads to toxic algal blooms, which affect aquatic life and the use of these waters for drinking and recreation. 

The Department of Ecology is currently reviewing the renewal of the plant’s water quality permit, which provides an opportunity to strengthen monitoring and pollution control measures to minimize these harmful discharges. The public is invited to attend a virtual public hearing on Jan. 11, 2024 and to submit public comments by Jan. 31, 2024.  

Join us in urging the Washington Department of Ecology to require a more stringent permit that would require the City of Everett plant to reduce harmful discharges of PBDEs, PFAS, and nutrient pollution into the Snohomish River and Puget Sound.

Strong pollution control measures – combined with adequate monitoring – are essential to protect both people and wildlife.  

Tell the Department of Ecology: Washington State can set an example for other wastewater treatment plants across the country by implementing strong measures that will be effective in reducing pollution at the Everett plant to protect salmon, orcas, and people.  

An orca breaching in the Salish Sea with mountains in the background.
Southern Resident male killer whale K35 in Juan de Fuca strait as J's & K's make their way back into the waters of the Salish Sea. (Mark Malleson / Getty Images)

Delivery to Washington State Department of Ecology

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