Seattle, WA – Major industrial facilities illegally dumped dangerous levels of pollution into Washington’s waterways 55 times over 21 months, according to a new report by Environment Washington Research and Policy Center. The facilities rarely faced penalties for this pollution due to inaction by state and federal agencies responsible for implementing the Clean Water Act. Environment Washington’s Troubled Waters report comes as the Trump administration tries to weaken clean water protections and slash enforcement funding for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the states.
“All Washington waterways should be clean for swimming, drinking water, fish and wildlife,” said Bruce Speight, Executive Director of Environment Washington. “But industrial polluters are still dumping chemicals that threaten our health and environment, and our state and federal agencies are failing to hold them accountable.”
In reviewing Clean Water Act compliance data from January 2016 through September 2017, Environment Washington Research and Policy Center and Frontier Group found that major industrial facilities are regularly dumping pollution beyond legal limits set to protect human health and the environment, in Washington and across the country.
For example, the report shows that Cosmo Specialty Fibers in Grays Harbor poured pollutants in excess of its permit limits eight times into the Chehalis River, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ICIS database. Also, Joint Base Lewis McChord had six exceedances and one of them was more than 500 percent the permit limit.
“Clean water is essential to all life, as well as Puget Sound fisheries, recreation and the health of our communities, and polluted waterways hurt all of us”, said Chris Wilke, Executive Director of Puget Soundkeeper, “We are deeply concerned by the implications of this report. The public has fought hard for protective standards and we rely on our public agencies to ensure that the laws designed to protect us are being followed.”
The report also shows that polluters rarely face penalties, and recommends several measures to ensure stronger enforcement of, and protection for, clean water. Unfortunately, decision makers in Washington, DC could soon make the pattern of pollution worse.
“There is clearly a culture of leniency at both the state and federal level with regard to Clean Water Act enforcement,” adds Speight. “We applaud Senators Murray and Cantwell for their leadership in restoring funding to the EPA and removing damaging environmental riders. However, through executive orders and rule-making the Trump administration is moving to weaken critical clean water protections, and has proposed slashing enforcement funding for U.S. EPA and the states in its proposed 2019 Budget. Considered leadership from our congressional delegation will be critical.”
“Failure at this level is unfortunately just the tip of the iceberg.” adds Chris Wilke, pointing to Department of Ecology’s failure to control point source pollution through under enforcement of stormwater permits and Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations permits. “It merely highlights the deeper ways that our agencies fail the public trust to protect our common waters.” Over the years Puget Soundkeeper has had to step up over 170 times to enforce the Clean Water Act against illegal pollution when agencies failed to act.
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Environment Washington Research & Policy Center is a 501(c)(3) organization. We are dedicated to protecting our air, water and open spaces. We investigate problems, craft solutions, educate the public and decision-makers, and help the public make their voices heard in local, state and national debates over the quality of our environment and our lives. For more information, visit www.environmentwashingtoncenter.org.
Puget Soundkeeper is a 501(c)(3) organization based in Seattle, WA with a mission to protect and preserve the waters of Puget Sound. www.pugetsoundkeeper.org