Sewage Treatment Appeal Filed in State Court to Protect Puget Sound

This has been a known problem and long running battle at the State level by environmental organizations since the early 90s. Standard excuses, too expensive to do, etc.  As stated to me by a knowledgeable friend, “Muni sewage plants and industrial facilities directly discharging to the Sound are supposed to have permits re-written every five years to “rachet down” on discharge pollutants as new technologies became available. EPA didn’t make the state do much more than some minor cosmetic remedies because municipalities said they’d have to raise rates and industries said the costs wouldn’t be worth the amount of pollution reduction of secondary.”  Who was running Department of Ecology in 1991 when that happened? The environmental champion, Christine Gregoire. And so it goes. The death from a thousand cuts.

“Olympia (WA) – An environmental group sued the Washington Department of Ecology in state court today in its bid to modernize pollution removal at Puget Sound sewage treatment plants. In January, Ecology refused to update its rules that allow dischargers to use 100-year-old pollution control technology while Puget Sound faces emergency levels of toxic and nutrient pollution.
“It’s well past time for the Department of Ecology to stop relying on 100-year old technology to protect Puget Sound,” said Nina Bell, Executive Director of Northwest Environmental Advocates (NWEA). “We’re not driving around in Ford Model T’s so why are we still using sewage treatment technology from that era? Modern sewage treatment would help clean up Puget Sound and protect struggling populations of Chinook salmon and orca whales,” she added.
NWEA sought a change in the 31-year old rules that Ecology uses to define modern technology by filing a petition with the agency on November 14, 2018. Ecology denied the petition on January 11, 2019. NWEA appealed the denial to Governor Inslee on January 30, 2019; he has 45 days in which to respond.
The petition explains that although Ecology has identified sewage discharges as the primary cause of some of Puget Sound’s biggest pollution problems, it has taken no action. Inadequate treatment of sewage is causing widespread algal blooms, low levels of dissolved oxygen, wholesale food web changes, ocean acidification, and toxic threats to orca whales, salmon, and crab according to Ecology’s own studies.
The petition is based on state law that requires pollution sources to use the best available treatment technology. The 74-year old Washington law, referred to as “AKART,” requires the use of “All Known, Available, and Reasonable Treatment” for pollution prior to its discharge.
NWEA’s petition details the widespread use of modern sewage treatment in the United States. For example, sewage treatment plants discharging to Chesapeake Bay and Long Island Sound have cut their nutrient pollution by almost 60 percent. In contrast, very few cities in the Puget Sound area have modern technology, and Ecology has only required one to do so—the LOTT treatment plant in Olympia.
Today’s lawsuit was filed in Thurston County Superior Court on behalf of NWEA by Andrew Hawl y, of the Western Environmental Law Center, and Bryan Telegin, of Bricklin & Newman, LLP.”

West Coast’s biggest starfish vanishing amid disease, warming oceans, study finds – Seattle Times

Not good news from the starfish front. As most of you know, the starfish wasting disease decimated our native starfish. Whether they ever return to previous numbers is in doubt. Here’s why.

A new study reveals the recent widespread die-off of starfish — linked to climate change, warming oceans and a disease epidemic — imperils the biggest starfish of all, the sunflower star.

https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/environment/starfish-slaughter-along-west-coast-imperils-biggest-starfish-of-all-as-oceans-warm/

Scientific study on issues of intertidal structures that cross water

This 2017 scientific study on the issues of intertidal structures just was sent to us. Worth listing her for future reference.  Thinking about the Hood Canal Bridge here, among others.

Executive Summary
For hundreds of years, people have built water crossing structures to enable the transportation of people, livestock, vehicles, and materials across rivers and other bodies of water. These structures have often created barriers to fish passage, an issue which has recently drawn intense scrutiny due to concerns over impacts to anadromous fish. While much work has focused on the impacts of freshwater crossing structures, inter-tidal structures have received less attention. This may be due to the importance of passage for adult anadromous fish in freshwater, and that bidirectional flows in intertidal environments complicate interpretation of structures as barriers. Intertidal water crossing structures likely have adverse impacts on juvenile life stages of fish due not only to impacts to passage, but also to impacts to estuarine habitats extensively used by these species as rearing environments. Examining the impacts of intertidal water crossing structures only through the lens of fish passage therefore misses key aspects to how these structures can affect fish.
In this report we review literature on intertidal water crossing structures and how they affect fish that depend on intertidal habitats for passage during migration or for extended rearing during early life stages. Our findings are important for establishing fish passage criteria, providing design guidelines, and identifying key data gaps for future research of intertidal water crossing structures.

 

greene-et-al.-2017-review-on-intertidal-water-crossing-structures-and-fish-1

Tidal forests offer hope for salmon – Puget Sound Institute

Wonderful short article that highlights a goal we can (and actually are in many places) work towards, which is estuary restoration. Small fish hang out in these places. There are just these kind of places on the Dungeness and other rivers here on the Peninsula. Not so much on the Elwha. Give it a read.

https://www.eopugetsound.org/magazine/is/tidal-forests

 

Navy dumps hazardous substances including copper, zinc into Puget Sound, Washington state AG says – Seattle Times

More on what it means when the Trump Administration wants to roll back environmental protection. Here it is, come home to roost. Kudos to the AG who once again is out to protect us and our environment from the consequences of this disastrous president. Is this what Making America Great Again is all about?

The U.S. Navy dumped the equivalent of 50 dump truck loads of solid material, including copper and zinc, into Puget Sound and must be stopped before it does so again, according to Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson. The Navy provides dock space at Naval Base Kitsap for decommissioned, nonoperational vessels to be dismantled, recycled and disposed of. While cleaning the ship Independence at the yard in January 2017 before shipment to Texas for disposal, the Navy dumped the scraped-off paint into Sinclair Inlet, in violation of state and federal laws, according to a news release issued by Ferguson….Ferguson’s office notified the Navy on Thursday of the state’s intent to join a suit in federal court to ask the Navy to clean up the mess and to require the Navy to stop scraping ships at Navy Base Kitsap and dumping the material in Sinclair Inlet. Lynda Mapes reports. (Seattle Times)

https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/environment/navy-dumps-equivalent-of-50-truckloads-of-hazardous-material-into-puget-sound-state-ag-says/?utm_source=referral&utm_medium=mobile-app&utm_campaign=ios

After 20 years and $1 billion spent on Washington state salmon programs, fish still declining, new report says – Seattle Times

Yes, but as the article says, it isn’t all bad news. Our county NGOs and the Tribes have been responsible for helping turn the tide on this issue locally. But as it has been for decades, Puget Sound growth is rampant, we don’t get the funding needed and we are not protecting our salmon habitat from development effects too close to their banks. The concerns we should have about this development was even evident  when  our newly elected County Commissioner Greg Brotherton was mysteriously quoted when asked about the Growth Management Act just this week in the PT Leader as saying, “I think that our growth management is out of balance, but I think that growth management is important.”  Not sure how to read that. Is he in favor of what the GMA has done or not? If not why not? If so, what would he change to make it “in balance?” Meanwhile, the situation is in general, pointing to more losses around the Salish Sea. One area that has been a focus of some groups, is the mismanagement of shoreline habitat by the Dept. of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). They continue to allow shoreline development with not a complete understanding of forage fish spawning habitat, especially favoring wealthy shoreline developers over gathering the evidence needed to make a scientific based decision. And the beat goes on.

After 20 years and nearly $1 billion spent on Washington state salmon recovery programs, most salmon are still in decline, a state report has found. The 2018 State of the Salmon report by the Governor’s Salmon Recovery Office is a sobering read: Across the state, and in its jewel, Puget Sound, salmon are struggling to survive despite efforts of every kind to prevent extinction. The news isn’t all bad: some runs, such as summer chum on the Hood Canal and fall chinook in the Snake River are doing better and near their recovery goals. And habitat restoration, from taking out dikes to fixing highway culverts that block salmon migration boosts salmon populations, the report found. The problem is that more habitat is being destroyed, more quickly than it can be fixed as the state continues a turbocharged growth spurt that is chewing up salmon habitat with roads, pavement, housing and commercial development. Lynda Mapes reports. (Seattle Times)

https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/environment/after-20-years-and-1-billion-spent-on-washington-state-salmon-programs-fish-still-declining-new-report-says/?utm_source=referral&utm_medium=mobile-app&utm_campaign=ios

 

Phil Johnson walks on..

This is one of the hardest obituaries I’ve ever written. I knew a small piece of Phil Johnson. I never knew him as he grew up in Port Townsend, on the farm just north of the county fairgrounds. Nor did I know him as he went off to college, and then became a salmon fisherman. Nor when he married the love of his life, Sandy.  Nor the daughter that they had, Maia. I didn’t know him when he became a property owner in downtown PT, nor when he helped a young guy named Rocky buy and restore the Rose Theater.  I didn’t know him as he built homes, and then ran for County Commissioner. But then I got to know Phil when he and I bumped into each other fighting for environmental protections in Jefferson County, first on the Shoreline Master Program, to write in rules to better regulate aquaculture and then to work to ban Atlantic salmon raised in net pens in the Salish Sea. Then on the Jefferson County Marine Resources Committee.

It was hard work. Industry spokespeople verbally trashed us and undermined our work.  Angry citizens that couldn’t understand why the government should do more regulation screamed at public meetings. They are still out there doing that at every opportunity.  It’s not spin. It’s lies or at best a misunderstanding of the issues. A lack of taking the time to understand the issue.  Heads of state agencies patiently listened to Phil’s cogent arguments, then they ignored him. Including heads of agencies still in office today.

Phil didn’t care. He had the creds. He had been here, salmon fishing, and watching the fish vanish. Watching the destruction by boats losing nets, his included. Watched as all sorts of things happened to destroy the fish runs. The growth of non native fish in huge farm lots called net pens. He knew how bad it was, first hand. It was clear that the runs were almost gone, that the Orcas were only indicators of a much wider problem that was much farther along than the pols and business spokespeople wanted to admit. The loss of habitat, the lack of monitoring and enforcement, especially in rural poorer counties like ours hampers our ability to act even when the will is there. There is still a  lack of real funding and enforcement to fix the problems.

He traveled everywhere to share his thoughts with others wanting to listen. And finally, by accident, we had the issue cornered, because of a monstrous breach that couldn’t be covered up by industry PR and bombastic paid spokespeople at public forums interrupting Phil and others. They brought it on themselves by buying the regulatory bodies in the state government that could have told them that they needed to do better. Phil saw the opportunity and wanted to make sure it got accomplished. But he was running out of time.

There was a meeting in Blyn last year, to debate the rules that were about to be legislated into being to stop the rearing of Atlantic salmon and net pens. Phil really wanted to go. I had a van with a bed in the back and we discussed the logistics. We had a plan, but by then, it was too late. Phil was having too many problems with his health to go. So he told me what to say on his behalf.

I was attacked by the industry mouthpiece in the meeting but I  said Phil’s words and held him in my thoughts. In the end it was just one meeting, but additional momentum carried the day in Olympia and Atlantic salmon in net pens were banned. A huge surge of political will, momentum from all sides including many Tribes, who brought great ideas to the table and environmentalists willing to bend and give a little to get it done pushed it through.  But Phil knew that vigilance was necessary and we talked about what to expect next from that industry. He knew it was a long game to be played.

Now he’s gone. He left a legacy of the kind of politics we don’t see much of anymore. Whether it’s the hard core left or right that doesn’t want to compromise but doesn’t understand how to work the system to get things done, to the middle of the road pols that want to please everyone but accomplish nothing that really matters, Phil stood out. He did the hard work. Those of us that managed to catch a bit of that spirit understood. Many of us, myself included, just don’t have the stamina, nor the creds or temperament  that Phil had, to do what Phil did. Maybe at some point we will. But we will carry on. We are all a loose coalition of various people and organizations, often fighting for the same donated dollar, and sometimes at odds with ourselves. But when focused things do change. Phil knew that.

I’m including a short 1.5 minute video here I shot at a day a few years ago, celebrating the work of the Northwest Straits Initiative at the completion of the derelict nets project. Phil left a derelict net down in the Sound once. He knew where it was, knew it was expensive and he didn’t want to lose it but he did, and he also knew it had been recovered. He was grateful. Both for the project and the organization that got it done. Take a few minutes and listen to the late, great Phil Johnson, then go out tomorrow, next week and next year and gather your courage and fight for what you value. There’s plenty to fight for. See you out there.

 

 

 

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