Challenging Washington’s Building and Polluted Runoff Rules

An Earthjustice lawsuit forced the state of Washington to drop an agreement with Clark County to operate under inadequate standards that would allow excessive water pollution.

Case Overview

Earthjustice represented three conservation organizations in asking the Washington State Pollution Control Hearings Board to throw out an 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 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 a major decision in June 2013, U.S. District Judge Ronald B. Leighton ruled Clark County’s weak development standards that allow too much polluted runoff, violate clean water laws. The ruling signaled an end to the county’s long-time failure to protect rivers, streams and salmon threatened with extinction.

Seattle drenched by an autumn storm.
Seattle drenched by an autumn storm. When storm water runs off parking lots, buildings, and other urban development, it carries with it a mix of toxic metals. (Photo courtesy of Peter Mooney)

Case Updates

Puget Sound, Washington.
December 29, 2016 Press Release

WA Supreme Court: Developers Can’t Evade Water Pollution Standards

State high court unanimously overturns Court of Appeals to find that state “vesting” law does not apply to clean water standards

December 29, 2016 document

Court Opinion: Snohomish County, et al. v. Pollution Control Hearings Ed., et al., 92805-3

In The Supreme Court of the State of Washington

June 7, 2013 document

Order for Summary Judgment