SEATTLE - The public can comment beginning today on new stormwater permit rules in Washington. The rules govern how subdivisions and buildings are constructed to minimize runoff, the largest source of toxic pollution in lakes, rivers and Puget Sound.
The Washington Department of Ecology has been criticized for not being tough enough on developers about this issue, and so far, its new proposal isn't faring any better.
Chris Wilke, executive director of the Puget Soundkeeper Alliance
, says low-impact "green" technology can filter stormwater more cheaply and effectively than do pipes and pavement - but the draft rules don't encourage developers to use it.
"There were large loopholes that you could essentially drive a truck through. We feel that the list of exemptions is far too broad and that, at the end of the day, it's going to result in a lot more pavement and a lot more impacts to our waters."
Some developers and local governments have been hesitant to adopt new techniques, such as installing rain gardens that act as natural water filters, says Wilke. They're more familiar with traditional methods, such as building gutters, pipe systems and detention ponds.
Bruce Wishert, a spokesman for People for Puget Sound,
says the proposed rules would improve monitoring of stormwater runoff and eliminate some exemptions. But overall, he says they would allow a developer to ignore modern pollution-control methods that have been proven to work.
"It's the best for ratepayers, it's the best for the developer and for the environment. But unfortunately, this permit - with all the exemptions and loopholes and failure to encourage some of these techniques - we've really missed an opportunity, at least in the current draft."
The groups say Washington already has serious pollution problems with water, fish and beaches, and they're also concerned about the timeline for the new permit rules. Even after they are finalized in mid-2012, it will be a few more years before they go into effect.
The Ecology Department will hold public hearings on the draft rules starting in December. Read and/or comment on the draft rules at ecy.wa.gov