For Immediate Release
Dvija Michael Bertish, Rosemere Neighborhood Association, (360) 281-4747
Brett VandenHeuvel, Columbia Riverkeeper, (503) 348-2436
Mark Riskedahl, Northwest Environmental Defense Center, (503) 768-6673
Clean Water Advocates Act For Stronger Stormwater Controls in Washington
Lawsuit filed to protect salmon and close illegal loopholes
challenge to Clark County's on-going failure to protect rivers, streams
and comply with laws limiting stormwater pollution.
The public interest law firm Earthjustice filed an appeal on behalf
of three local conservation organizations asking the Washington State
Pollution Control Hearings Board to throw out a recent agreement
between Clark County and the Washington Department of Ecology. Local
residents and clean water advocates argue the state authorized
inadequate development standards that will generate illegal stormwater
"Clark County's refusal to comply with state stormwater requirements
is unfair to other cities and counties that are working hard to clean
up our polluted waterways," said Earthjustice attorney Jan Hasselman,
who is representing the groups. "When it comes to clean water, everyone
needs to do their share."
Stormwater contains toxic metals, oil, grease, pesticides,
herbicides, bacteria and nutrients. Last year, the Environmental
Protection Agency released a startling report on toxics in the Columbia
Basin, which identified stormwater as a leading cause of toxic
pollution in the basin. When 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
Under a lopsided deal reached in early January, Ecology agreed to
allow Clark County to retain inadequate stormwater standards for new
development in exchange for a promise to implement county-funded
stormwater mitigation projects.
However, Clark County is already required to implement these
projects under federal law. Additionally, the agreement allows Clark
County to mitigate new development anywhere in the county, up to three
years after the development occurs.
"Clark County's approach to stormwater is a bad deal for clean water
and species like salmon because developers will continue to use
outdated and inadequate building standards," said Dvija Michael Bertish
of the Rosemere Neighborhood Association, one of the appellant groups.
"It's also a bad deal for taxpayers because it transfers the burden of
mitigating stormwater from developers to the public."
"From subsistence to recreational fishing, so many people in our
area rely on fish from local streams and rivers," explained Brett
VandenHeuvel, Executive Director of Columbia Riverkeeper. "Given the
direct harm of stormwater toxics on salmon, we need our state and Clark
County to comply with the law to protect the salmon and the people who
rely on them."
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 weak flow control standard for new development. While
Ecology initially sought to bring an enforcement action against the
county, it later agreed to let Clark County retain the insufficient
"Clark County is allowing development that does not change the rate
of stormwater flow even though this flow continues to damage creeks and
rivers," said Dennis Dykes, an expert hydrogeologist who has reviewed
the Clark County's proposal. "The stormwater ordinance and the proposed
flow control program are not protective of water quality and endangered
species like salmon. There is simply no scientific basis for allowing
continued degradation of one watershed in exchange for a plan to do
something beneficial somewhere else."
The appealing groups include Rosemere Neighborhood Association,
Columbia Riverkeeper, and the Northwest Environmental Defense Center.
They are represented by attorneys Jan Hasselman and Janette Brimmer of
About the Pollution Control Hearings Board
The Pollution Control Hearings Board acts like a court for appeals
of state environmental regulations. The three board members hear
appeals from orders and decisions made by the Department of Ecology and
other agencies as provided by law. The Board's function is to provide
litigants a full and complete administrative hearing, as promptly as
possible, followed by a fair and impartial written decision based on
the facts and law. The Board is not affiliated with the Department of
Ecology or any other state agency. The Board consists of three members,
who are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the State Senate for
staggered six-year terms.
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.