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Saturday, January 30, 2010

State to reduce stormwater pollution from highways

An important legal settlement has been reached which could have far reaching consequences for improvement of the State's Water Quality problems. Coincidentally, State Legislators are currently working on important bills which may pass this year and provide funding to help- municipalities address these water quality problems that are their responsibilities.

The following article is from The Olympian.

State to reduce stormwater pollution from highways

Washington state will do more to prevent polluted stormwater from running off state highways into rivers, lakes and Puget Sound, where it poses a serious threat to salmon and other aquatic life.

In a legal settlement filed Tuesday, the state Department of Transportation agreed that whenever it builds new highways in Western Washington, it will also spend a little bit of money to retrofit old ones – thousands of miles of which were constructed without sediment ponds or other pollution controls.

The environmental law firm Earthjustice and the group Puget Soundkeeper Alliance challenged the DOT’s stormwater discharge permit before the Pollution Control Hearings Board last year, saying it didn’t meet the requirements of the federal Clean Water Act.

“This is a 7,000-mile highway system that generates enormous amounts of pollutants, most of which are discharged directly into waters without any treatment or storage whatsoever,” Earthjustice attorney Jan Hasselman said. “The amount of copper coming off a highway is staggering compared to the levels that we know affect salmon.”

The state Ecology Department said stormwater runoff is a major source of the 52 million pounds of toxic chemicals, such as oil, PCBs and heavy metals, that end up in Puget Sound each year. Copper is particularly troubling for young salmon because it destroys their sense of smell and prevents them from avoiding predators.

Environmental groups have been pressing the state to get a handle on runoff, not just from highways but from cities and businesses as well.

photo credit - Janet Way


  1. Good news. We seem to have a few years to go before enough citizens get the need to shift to porous surfaces, outlaw certain materials that are killing us and restore balance to the rain cycle we disrupted with our pavement and cities, too many people.

  2. Thanks for publishing this important article, Janet. While I am at it, the picture is frightening but the photography is amazing; kudos on your work!

    Re: the subject of run-off, I have an idea I am preaching to the choir. Most readers of your blog would already know this, but I feel the need to say it, anyway, in case any environmental opponents may have stumbled upon your blog. It is that our whole ecosystem is just that, a system. Eventually, we and our loved ones, families, babies and pets assimilate what we and industry put into the air, ground and water. What runs off the highway does wind up in streams and eventually lakes, the sound or ocean. The fish and mammals of those waters suffer before they die, either as food that we eat or to become food for another creature. The poisons get passed along. Neither we, as humans, nor they as fish and wildlife are equipped to eliminate most of the heavy metals, chemicals and petroleum we eat in fish and other sources. Even if they do not kill us, cumulatively, pollutants take a serious toll on health; in time they catch up with us.

    Autism is escalating to epidemic proportions. The fact that many children with autism improve when heavy metals are chelated from their systems suggests that our societal polluting habits are causative.

    Janet, thanks for the soap box; it's nice to have a choir to preach to and a place to do it!

  3. Hi Saskia and All,

    I certainly agree with your important points. Just want to refer you back to some posts in last couple of weeks addressing these points. See Lisa Stifler and Sightline articles on Stormwater under "Older Posts" link below.

    Lot's to do to continue to bring this issue to light and remind folks of the work we need to do to fix these eco"systems".



  4. Whoa, that photo is awesome! Would love to have a raised truck or a jeep and drive through that! The road does look like it could use an inlet filter or two.