Update water quality standards for aquatic life that focus on pollutants most harmful to Southern Residents and their food.
Direct the Washington Department of Ecology to consider developing stronger pre-treatment standards for city and industrial wastewater discharges.
Fund the Department of Ecology to increase inspections, assistance programs, and enforcement to achieve water quality standards. Prioritize enforcement where limits are exceeded for pollutants known to be harmful to Southern Resident orcas.
The Department of Ecology should report in 2019 on how to accelerate effectiveness, implementation, and enforcement of National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits. Using the existing regulatory framework and authority under the Clean Water Act and Water Pollution Control Act, the department should update water quality standards for aquatic life that focus on the pollutants most harmful to Southern Residents and their food. To fill gaps, this will focus primarily on polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), contaminants of emerging concern, and other chemicals based on greatest benefit to Southern Residents and their food. In addition, Ecology should consider developing stronger pre-treatment standards for municipal and industrial wastewater dischargers under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System.
Improved permit requirements also would result in increased innovation and source control and drive improved technology requirements. For municipal wastewater facilities, this would combine better industrial pretreatment and use of better treatment technologies with upgrades to wastewater treatment facilities. New standards could be implemented through renewals of the 5-year National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit cycle and could allow permittees the necessary time to fully implement solutions (ideally within one permit cycle).
To ensure new and existing permit conditions and water quality standards are met, Ecology should seek funding in the 2019 legislative session for more robust inspections, assistance programs, and enforcement. The funding should support field staff and data analysis and include a clear directive to increase enforcement against entities that exceed limits for pollutants known to cause harm to the Southern Resident orcas and their food.
- In 2019, the Legislature provided funding for Department of Ecology water quality enforcement staff. That funding has been continued recently by the Legislature (these staff also support, and are reported under, Recommendation 31).
- Newly issued municipal stormwater permits now require smaller jurisdictions to implement local source control.
- The department is exploring nutrient reduction methods that may reduce toxic pollution as well.
More details may be found in the progress reports in the resources library.