SEATTLE– In Washington and across America, the systems that should manage wastewater and stormwater are outdated and failing, according to a new report from Environment Washington Research & Policy Center. Puget Sound is a treasure for residents looking for natural beauty, and habitat for iconic wildlife. But failing wastewater treatment is contributing sewage pollution in the sound, reducing oxygen levels fish need to survive and causing periodic dead zones and fish kills.
The new study, which comes out as Congress negotiates water infrastructure funding for the coming fiscal year as part of the federal budget, offers a path to cleaner water that can be achieved with investment. The report calls for Congress to support states’ efforts to bring our nation’s water quality up to standards. This clean water funding should prioritize nature based infrastructure, a cost effective and innovative way to trap and treat dirty water while providing beautiful outdoor spaces and wildlife habitat.
“From Puget Sound to Columbia River, one thing is clear: investing in water infrastructure works,” said Pam Clough, Acting Director of Environment Washington. “Across Washington we read stories about fish kills and sewage overflows. Unfortunately, we can expect more of these stories as our infrastructure ages without the updates it needs. But when our nation applies the right resources, we can fix these problems.”
Entitled, A Path to Cleaner Water, the report shows how investing in water infrastructure brings cleaner water to communities across America. Specifically, the group looked at successful and innovative projects in each of the ten U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regions. Despite the geographical differences between regions and states, it’s clear how clean water investments can clean and protect America’s waterways.
The report highlighted LOTT’s main sewage treatment plant at Budd Inlet in a case study showing the value of investing in clean water projects. LOTT upgraded the facility to add nitrogen removal and ultraviolet disinfection to produce cleaner water. Now, it regularly removes more than the required amount of nitrogen and has nearly eliminated sewer overflows into Budd Inlet.
“It’s fantastic to see Budd Inlet and Puget Sound benefiting from investment, but we should be able to say the same for every waterway in Washington, no matter its location or size,” Clough noted. “I live in the South Sound area and love getting out on my kayak to enjoy the water and see the amazing wildlife we have, like the harbor porpoises, seals, sea lions, starfish, and anemones. We collectively suffer from dirty water in our environment and I hope to see more improvements to wastewater treatment plants across Washington.”
While LOTT is a model for what is possible in the region, many wastewater treatment plants in the region are failing to reduce their nitrogen pollution. It will take strong permitting and investments in effective water infrastructure to really improve the health of the sound.
To upgrade wastewater systems and protect clean water, Congress will have to make a substantial investment, according to the report. They have until December 11 to negotiate a compromise on this and other issues in the federal budget. Elected officials are currently negotiating water infrastructure provisions, including the $11 billion House spending bill aimed at solving this problem.
“Not only is investing in clean water a good idea for our waterways, environment, and wildlife, it also boasts bipartisan support.” Clough said. We saw proof of this earlier this year when the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee announced draft legislation with bipartisan support to boost water infrastructure spending. The support of clean water can bring Congress together, and show unity in a time of great division. Senator Murray serves on the Appropriations Committee and has a unique opportunity to champion this issue as Congress negotiates water infrastructure for next year’s budget.”
Environment Washington Research & Policy Center is dedicated to protecting our air, water and open spaces. We work to protect the places we love, advance the environmental values we share, and win real results for our environment. For more information, visit www.environmentwashingtoncenter.org.