Clark County Challenged for Weak Stormwater Controls

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Jan Hasselman, Earthjustice, (206) 343-7340 ext. 25

Clark County Challenged for Weak Stormwater Controls

Clean water advocates put county on notice illegal loopholes must be closed

VANCOUVER, Wash. - Clean
water advocates, represented by Earthjustice, today formally put Clark
County on notice it could be sued under the federal Clean Water
Act for on-going failure to protect fish, drinking water supplies, and
rivers, and comply with laws limiting stormwater pollution.  

  The 60-day notice letter says Clark County's inadequate
pollution standards will generate illegal stormwater pollution that
will harm salmon, streams, groundwater and other natural resources. 
Damage to rivers and streams from the new development will force
taxpayers, rather than the developers, to pay for the impacts of urban
stormwater runoff, including flooding, property damage caused by
erosion, and threats to the county's drinking water supply.

Stormwater
is a toxic mix of grease, metals, pesticides, herbicides, bacteria and
nutrients. When dirty stormwater runs off parking lots, buildings, and
other urban development, it carries
with it toxic metals, particularly copper and zinc, which harm salmon
and other aquatic life. Large unnatural flushes of runoff during storm
events also cause damaging erosion in streams that destroys salmon
habitat and that gets worse with each additional
storm. 

The
National Research Council, an independent institute created by Congress
which produces peer-reviewed studies, recently issued an exhaustive
report on the impacts stormwater runoff
and warned of its long-term, costly impacts.  According to the National
Research Council, "[s]tormwater runoff from the built environment
remains one of the great challenges of water pollution control, as this
source of contamination is a principal contributor
to water quality impairment of water bodies nationwide."  Urban Stormwater Management in the United States, National Research
Council (Oct. 15, 2008)

"There
needs to be a level playing field for all cities and counties,"said
Earthjustice attorney Jan Hasselman, who is representing the groups. 
"Every other jurisdiction in Western Washington
is required to meet updated standards for reducing stormwater impacts,
but Clark County got a special deal that hurts taxpayers and clean
water." 

The letter emphasizes the advocate's interest in finding solutions that
don't require litigation.  "We're asking Clark County to come to the
table to discuss what can be done to reduce
stormwater pollution and comply with the law," said Brett VandenHuevel,
the Executive Director of Columbia Riverkeeper.

Earthjustice attorneys
Jan Hasselman and Janette Brimmer are representing Rosemere
Neighborhood Association, Columbia Riverkeeper, and the Northwest
Environmental Defense Center in the
notice.  Earlier this month, Earthjustice filed an appeal on behalf of
these groups asking the Washington State Pollution Control Hearings
board to throw out a lopsided agreement between Clark County and the
Washington Department of Ecology that allowed Clark
County to maintain its inadequate stormwater standards.

Federal law required
Clark County to adopt new rules governing runoff from development by
August of 2008. Rather than comply with Clean Water Act requirements,
the county knowingly adopted a significantly weaker
flow control standard for new development. While Ecology initially
sought to bring an enforcement action against the county for failing to
adequately manage stormwater pollution, it later agreed to let Clark
County retain the insufficient standards that don't
meet the requirements of clean water laws.

Read the 60 Day Notice Letter here: http://www.earthjustice.org/library/legal_docs/municipal-stormwater-60-day-notice.pdf

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Earthjustice is a non-profit public interest law firm dedicated to protecting the magnificent places, natural resources, and wildlife of this earth, and to defending the right of all people to a healthy environment. We bring about far-reaching change by enforcing and strengthening environmental laws on behalf of hundreds of organizations, coalitions and communities.

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