City supervisor disappointed in decision to require permit for Pullman. We’ve tried to fashion a permit that they can implement and they can afford.”
The Washington Department of Ecology issued statewide stormwater management permits Tuesday that went into effect for the city of Pullman today.
The permits will begin a series of state requirements the city must meet regarding stormwater.
“It is very necessary that we improve ... the quality of our stormwater. It’s time now for us to take on this new, difficult frontier,” Department of Ecology Director Jay Manning said during a conference call Tuesday.
The stormwater permits are required under the federal Clean Water Act and will be reissued on a five-year basis.
Manning said permits require municipalities to manage construction stormwater, detect and eliminate illegal discharges, create “good housekeeping practices” for existing systems and to educate the public. The regulations will effect 20 cities and eight counties in eastern Washington. On the west side, 81 cities and five counties will be affected.
Pullman City Supervisor John Sherman said he is disappointed the state decided to issue a permit to the city. The city was allowed a delay during the winter holiday, but Sherman said he was hoping the Department of Ecology would call off the permit issuance until a study concluded Pullman would be able to reduce pollutants in the urban area.
“We have, for a long time, been pushing for rational, reasonable standards. It just makes it extraordinarily difficult for Pullman to comply,” he said. “We’re not saying we don’t consider stormwater important, because we absolutely do. The question is what’s fair and equitable here.”
Manning recognized that the implementations would be expensive, and noted requirements would be phased in to accommodate small municipalities such as Pullman.
“We understand that this will be a difficult burden for the cities and counties,” he said. “It will be expensive
Sherman said the state did offer some funding — out of Gov. Christine Gregoire’s $26 million proposed budget for stormwater management — but the city has decided not to take it. The money would have been used to pay for a consultant.
“If the city accepted the money, then the city would be accepting the regulations,” Sherman said. “That carrot is out there. I don’t know how that’s going to play out.”
Manning said the first step in the permit process will include Department of Ecology representatives educating permit recipients and residents on the requirements. Workshops will be held throughout the state during the next four months.
”All of us contribute, in small ways, to the stormwater problem,” he said, noting that unmonitored stormwater such as construction run-off, pesticides and waste can pollute the state’s urban waterways and threaten wildlife. “Each one of us can decrease our own impact on stormwater and receiving water.”
Sherman said he’s still not convinced that Pullman needed a permit. He said the expense and the area’s unique topography and soil types should be analyzed more closely before strict state standards are set.
“This is putting ... an expense on every house in Pullman and every business and everybody and anybody,” he said. “We’re not in proximity to the Puget Sound. Yes, we all have a keen interest in stormwater being an issue ... in areas like the Puget Sound. But this is Pullman.”
Manning said permits have been written specifically for the regions in the state. Ecology employees took into account eastern Washington’s low precipitation levels when compared to the west side, along with soil types and topography and the threat of erosion.
Manning said there are no consequences for noncompliance at this time. When the state does begin to gather results, which is still a few years out, the fines for not meeting permit standards could include civil penalties of up to $10,000 per day under the Water Pollution Control Act.
“We’re going to be working with cities and counties, we’re going to help cities and counties. We’re not looking to knock anyone over the head,” Manning said.
Sherman said the City Council will discuss the permit issuance in depth at its Jan. 23 meeting. As I have said before, water, in all it various forms (aquifer, stormwater, etc.) is being used to hold Pullman down while Moscow has no similar restraints.