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.”

Petition seeks upgrades to Puget Sound Treatment Plants – Kitsap Sun

This upgrade would cost cities tens of millions of dollars. While it’s a noble goal, and one that should eventually be implemented for the health of the Salish Sea, poorer counties like Jefferson and Clallam would be put in a very difficult position financially. There is no money coming out of Washington D.C. to fund these efforts anymore, thanks to the folks who elected our current President and Senate. You can’t have both an anti-environmental President and expect to get help to do such things as improve the sewage outflows of our rural cities.  As to the State of Washington providing for these upgrades, given the current demands of culvert replacement and the McCleary Decision, I wouldn’t expect any funding for this anytime soon, if ever. By the way, I’ve heard that Port Townsend is reaching the end of life of it’s sewage treatment plant, and is making plans to eventually look at tertiary treatment. But it’s really expensive.

An environmental group, Northwest Environmental Advocates, is calling on the Washington Department of Ecology and Gov. Jay Inslee to invoke a 1945 law in hopes of forcing cities and counties to improve their sewage-treatment plants.

https://pugetsoundblogs.com/waterways/

Residents opposed to Mason County ‘septic lagoon’ despite state paving the way for approval – Kitsap Sun

Whatever could go wrong?  Well this story is about mitigating what went wrong. This is one of the locations that process our wastes for Jefferson County.  There is a backstory to this, as the request by Bio Recycling, who  has been in Mason County for a long time, and this proposal is to mitigate a problem for winter discharges and brown-water issues. It has been an ongoing issue of nitrates getting into the environment from the current plant. Bio Recycling’s technology may be sound, but so much “green-washing” is happening these days, where companies with unsound technologies rebrand themselves as ‘environmentally friendly” that it’s worth it to review their proposal.

The bio-solids they process are taken to central Washington where they are reused as fertilizer, though it’s unclear on what crops, etc.

They have been processing on-site septic systems and waste water treatment plants since 1993. There is no requirement to test for organic chemicals such as drugs, chemotherapy chemicals, poisons, etc. though they mention in the video of the meeting that they have done some preliminary studies and not found more than traces of some chemicals.  They use a lime neutralization process to treat the septic product. They process home septic tanks, some grease trap material and some material from waste treatment plants like Port Townsend and Port Ludlow, if my information is correct.

Citizen concerns are over a variety of issues, one of them being the ability to withstand a seismic event and what would happen in the event of an earthquake causing the pond to be breached.

The entire video of the Mason County Commissioners meeting that goes over the request is found here: http://masonwebtv.com/archives/30031

Also the overview of Bio Recycling and it’s processes, it’s overview of the project, etc.  I can’t find any mention of the people who run the company on their web site, or if they are owned by another company. They are a privately owned company apparently run by Brian Hinkey (sp?) the son of the founder.

http://www.biorecycle.com/north_ranch.shtm

Bio Recycling is still awaiting permit approval from Mason County and the Department of Ecology to move forward with plans to build a double-lined lagoon to store treated biosolids, amid outcry from community members. The Department of Ecology and Mason County determined in March that the facility’s proposal to build an 18-million-gallon, double-lined lagoon to store treated wastewater and septage in Union will not have a probable significant adverse impact on the environment. The determination of nonsignificance, part of a state-mandated process, kicked off an intense period of public comment and meetings, wherein Ecology and Mason County received more than 100 comments from individuals, tribes and state agencies weighing in on the project. Arla Shephard Bull reports. (Kitsap Sun)

Residents opposed to Mason ‘septic lagoon’ despite state paving way for approval

Mussels on drugs found near Victoria sewage outfalls – CBC

For years, Victorians of all political stripes have been discounting their lack of a sewage system. Every time I’ve put a story up here, a couple of Victorians have, out of the blue, weighed in. I’ve even heard younger Victorians, who claim to be “green” tell me to my face that, “it’s no big deal” that their raw sewage has been pouring into the Strait for decades after every other city on the Strait and Salish Sea seems to have put in tertiary or secondary treatment systems. I rarely ever challenge them when they do that, as it’s pointless to argue with people who refuse to even look at scientific data. Well, the CBC finally looked into it, and the unfortunate joke is on them, as they have likely been poisoning themselves and their children if they have been eating any of the shellfish or bottom feeders from the area around their city.

As stated in the article, the sewage treatment plant *should* remove many of these chemicals. Now it is up to the local environmental departments to get the message out that people should not be dumping their pharmaceuticals and other chemicals down the sink or in the toilet. My hope is that, in some distant time, we will actually stop dumping *all* our wastes into the Straits and Salish Sea. Composting toilets have advanced to a place where we should be able to end the expensive and stupid habit that we have picked up in the last 100 years. While it was an improvement over what came before it, we have paid a price for it. There are no free lunches.

Monitoring by the Capital Regional District has found high concentrations of antidepressants, as well as other pharmaceuticals and personal care products in shellfish near the sewage outfalls around Victoria.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/sewage-victoria-crd-drugs-contamination-mussels-pharmaceuticals-1.4537222?utm_source=Sightline%20Institute&utm_medium=web-email&utm_campaign=Sightline%20News%20Selections

As sewage still spills, no timeline for fix to treatment plant’s Katrina-scale damage – Seattle Times

This is an incredibly bad situation. We are going to be dumping the entire sewage of Seattle into Puget Sound with only screening of primary solids for months.  I chalk this up as a Global Warming event, as the massive rains that  created this event, are consistent with the projections of increasing storm intensity in global warming scenarios.

It’s going to be a long road back to recovery for the crippled West Point wastewater-treatment plant in Seattle. A workhorse of the regional wastewater-treatment system, the plant is estimated to have sustained at least $25 million in damage in a flood Feb. 9 and cannot presently function properly. Recovery of the plant remains in very early stages. Damage had never occurred at the plant at such a scale. It has taken Hurricane Sandy or Katrina-scale damage to produce similar wreckage elsewhere in the country. Lynda Mapes reports. (Seattle Times)

http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/environment/as-sewage-still-spills-no-timeline-for-fix-to-treatment-plants-katrina-scale-damage/

Plan would ban boats from releasing sewage into Puget Sound – Seattle Times

This proposal has been in the discussion phase for a couple of years now. We discussed it in the Jefferson County Marine Resources Committee back in 2014 I believe. It was clear then, and is clear now, that if they are going to do this, it should be in more than one stage, with exemptions for working commercial vessels that cannot retrofit for the new rules.  I have to say that I agree with the critics that are quoted in the story. What those of us involved with the preliminary rules found back then, was that a number of tug boats, have never had an ability to have a holding tank, because they were built in an era where it wasn’t required, and they filled the hold with engine. There is no way to retrofit some of these working boats. As you can see from the reaction of commercial interests in this article, the issue has not magically gone away. That Ms. Bellon has chosen to ignore this feedback and simply given them 5 years to comply or have to buy a new tug is not going to solve the problem. It leads to the kind of anger against agencies like DOE, run under this Democratic governor. It can be fuel for the fire of the Republicans which is not needed in this election year. Ms. Bellon needs to come to the table with an exemption status for the small number of commercial vessels, perhaps establishing a 20 year exemption, what would allow the natural cycle of vessel replacement to happen.The small amount of treated human waste from these commercial vessels pale in comparison with the fecal runoff of the roads, which carries away pet waste by the ton every time it rains. I don’t see DOE getting all upset and banning cities from expanding until they fix their storm sewer systems. We know that it would not be politically acceptable. I highly recommend that if you are involved in any kind of organization or NGO that is involved in Puget Sound protection, that you write Ms Bellon, and call your legislators, and tell them and her that we need to have the commercial interests on board with this proposal before inacting it. As to the recreational boaters, getting them  to go to pump out stations is a good idea, but DOE better fund an expansion of those stations. There are not enough around the Sound.

Boaters and vessel operators would not be able to release sewage, treated or untreated, into Puget Sound under a proposal by Washington state regulators. The Department of Ecology said Thursday it and other state agencies petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to designate the waters of Puget Sound a “no discharge zone” to improve water quality and protect shellfish beds and swimming beaches from harmful bacteria. If approved, the zone would cover waters from near Sequim to south Puget Sound to the Canadian border, and includes Lake Washington and Lake Union. There are dozens of no-discharge zones in the country, but this would be the first in the Pacific Northwest. Phuong Le reports. (Associated Press)

http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/environment/plan-would-ban-boats-from-releasing-sewage-into-puget-sound/

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