VANCOUVER, Wash. - Developers are supposed to deal with stormwater
runoff in their construction plans, but a lawsuit filed on Monday
alleges that Clark County allows local builders to put off these plans
for up to three years after a project is built. Attorney Jan Hasselman
of Earthjustice says last month, the Washington Department of
Ecology agreed that the county could keep its weaker stormwater
standards for new construction, as long as it promised to fund and
implement runoff control as needed. He says taxpayers thus are fixing
the stormwater problems caused by builders.
"Those folks have pushed for relaxed development standards, relaxed
fees for permits, effectively transferring those kinds of burdens from
private development onto the public at large."
Hasselman says counties are supposed to meet the federal Clean Water
Act standards, and the suit charges that Clark County does not do so.
He says that sets a precedent for other towns and counties to delay
their own stormwater mitigation projects.
"The way that the Department of Ecology implements the Clean Water Act
program, any smaller jurisdiction can model its program on an approach
that has been approved for use in one of the larger jurisdictions."
Earthjustice is representing the Rosemere Neighborhood
Association, Columbia Riverkeeper, and the Northwest Environmental
Defense Center in the case. The groups are asking that Clark County
play by the same stormwater runoff rules as the rest of the state.
Runoff is a costly pollution problem for communities, full of
pesticides and heavy metals that end up in waterways and are toxic to
fish. Clark County has said new development is not nearly as big a
problem as existing buildings, and that its current agreement with the
state gives it the flexibility to fix stormwater problems wherever they