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Cleanup Site Updates and Water Quality Permits

In the United States, pollution by businesses is regulated under a permit system, which is a government-issued authorization to pollute the air or water. Permits limit the type and amount of pollution, and require industries to treat or capture as much pollution as is “reasonable.”

In Washington, pollution permits are issued under the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) and regulated by the state Department of Ecology. When permits come up for review, citizens can participate in the public process and comment on the details of the permit, calling for stronger environmental regulations where necessary.

Recent Public Comment Periods

Shoreline Armoring Implementation Strategy
Public Comment deadline: Nov. 30, 2017

A new Shoreline Armoring Implementation Strategy that aims to reduce shoreline armoring in Puget Sound is ready for public review and input. The Habitat Strategic Initiative team developed the strategy in partnership with the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife, Washington Department of Natural Resources, Puget Sound Partnership, Puget Sound Institute, and an Interdisciplinary Team of experts.

Quick Links: Shoreline Armoring Implementation Strategy drafta quick videofact sheet.

Central Waterfront Cleanup Site
Public comment deadline: Nov. 1, 2017 
Ecology invites you to comment on a draft environmental report (Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study, or RI/FS) that includes a preferred option to clean up the Central Waterfront site in Bellingham. The Port of Bellingham (Port) and the City of Bellingham (City) prepared the report with Ecology oversight. They investigated contamination and evaluated cleanup options, leading to a preferred cleanup option. All of this work is detailed in the report. You can view the RI/FS Report by following the links below. 

Quick Links: Ecology's Fact SheetRI/FS ReportRI/FS FiguresRI/FS Tables.

Boulevard Park Shoreline Maintenance
Public Comment Deadline: August 21, 2017

The City of Bellingham and Department of Ecology are planning to perform maintenance work on a portion of Boulevard Park shoreline to repair damage from winter storms. The work aims to prevent underlying contamination from getting into Bellingham Bay, and the goal is to get the work done before the next round of winter storms.

Under the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA), Ecology has determined that the proposed work will not have significant adverse impacts on the environment. Interested citizens can review documents related to the project and submit a comment during the comment period, which ends on August 21st.

Quick links: Public comment period website, SEPA factsheet, SEPA checklist and determination of non-significance.

Lehigh Northwest Cement Company Discharge Permit
Public comment deadline: July 26, 2017
Final permit expected: October 2017

The Department of Ecology has issued a draft permit for Lehigh Northwest Cement Company, authorizing discharge of cooling water, stormwater, and truck wash water to Bellingham Bay and nearby. The plant produces cement using clinker and gypsum, which arrive in trucks and on trains. Around 150 tons of clinker arrives from Canada per day. The facility is dusty, but operators are taking steps to prevent discharge of dust. Lehigh has two permitted discharge points, one to Bellingham Bay and one to groundwater. Their permit contains limits on oil and grease, pH, total suspended solids, and turbidity.

Quick links: Draft fact sheet, draft permit, permit document search

Construction Stormwater General Permit
Public comment deadline: February 10, 2017
Final permit goes into effect: May 5, 2016

Construction site operators are required to be covered by this permit if they are engaged in clearing, grading, and excavating activities that disturb 1+ acres and discharge stormwater to surface waters of the state. (Smaller sites may also require coverage.) The current permit was appealed and a settlement agreement was reached for a minor permit modification, and comments for modified permit sections are now being accepted.

Quick links: Proposed Permit Changes and Public Comment Instructions, Current Construction Stormwater General Permit, Sign up for emails about the permit

Blaine Marina, Inc. Cleanup Plan
Public comment deadline: January 25, 2017
Final permit expected: TBA

Environmental investigations from 1990-2007 documented diesel and oil releases with compounds that exceed standards of the Model Toxics Control Act, posing a threat to human health and environment. In 2012, Ecology required the Port to repair a failing section of bulkhead, conduct an environmental investigation, and prepare a draft cleanup plan.

Bridge and Ferry Terminal Washing General Permit
Public comment deadline: December 2nd, 2016
Final permit expected: Winter 2017

Due in part to the 2013 collapse of the Skagit River Bridge, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and local governments are developing a robust schedule to inspect and repair bridges statewide. Bridges must be washed prior to inspection in order for cracks and other problems to be detected. This permit will also cover ferry terminal maintenance activities. Quick links: Fact Sheet and Draft Permit

Shell Puget Sound Refinery water quality permit
Public comment deadline: September 19th, 2016
Final permit issued November 2016: Read the final permit and fact sheet

Proposed changes to the water quality permit for the Shell Puget Sound Refinery near Anacortes include: Lowering limits for refinery discharges, including oil, grease, and ammonia; removing construction stormwater requirements; and adding a sediment impact study. (Read the North Sound Baykeeper comment letter submitted to Ecology.)

Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) permit
Public comment deadline: August 31st, 2016
Final permit issued January 2017: Read the final permit

More than 4,500 Washington residents submitted comments to Ecology on the draft CAFO permit, calling for: Mandatory groundwater monitoring; science-based manure application requirements and restrictions; science-based riparian buffers for streams; implementation of best technology; and adequate agency funding.

Read the RE Sources for Sustainable Communities comment letter submitted to Ecology.
Read Ecology's responses to the thousands of public comments on the CAFO permit.
On Feb. 17, 2017, a coalition of environmental groups filed an appeal with the Washington state Pollution Control Hearings Board (PCHB) challenging the Department of Ecology’s waste discharge permits for concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs).

Types of Permits  

Ecology issues permits under several categories: Industrial, Construction, Municipal, and Transportation.

Industrial Stormwater General Permit
The ISGP permit covers various industries that have the potential to pollute, as indicated by their industrial code. The ISGP requires businesses to develop a stormwater pollution prevention plan, implement Best Management Practices (BMPs) to control stormwater, sample for pollutants on a quarterly basis, and report the findings to Ecology.

Construction Stormwater General Permit
The CSGP permit covers construction activities that disturb 1 acre or more. The CSGP requires the contractor to implement BMPs at the construction site, sample any discharge on a weekly basis, and report the findings to Ecology. The CSGP also requires that BMPs be part of permitted construction sites. Learn more about construction site BMPs, including effective means to control stormwater on construction sites.

Municipal Stormwater General Permit
The MSGP permit covers municipal activities in urbanized areas under Phase 1 permits (population greater than 100,000) or Phase 2 permits (population less than 10,000). Both Whatcom and Skagit Ccounties are regulated under Phase 2 permits, as are Anacortes, Bellingham, Burlington, Ferndale, Mount Vernon, and Sedro-Woolley.

The Phase 2 MSGP requires municipalities to provide public education and outreach, provide opportunities for public involvement, detect and eliminate illicit discharges, implement the CSGP, control stormwater and use BMPs for municipal operations, manage stormwater from newly constructed and redeveloped sites, and monitor stormwater.

Washington State Department of Transportation Municipal Stormwater Permit
The WSDOT permit covers highway systems within the same urbanized areas covered under the MSGP.
Hannah Coughlin,
Oct 10, 2017, 3:59 PM
Hannah Coughlin,
Oct 10, 2017, 3:55 PM
Hannah Coughlin,
Oct 10, 2017, 3:53 PM
Hannah Coughlin,
Oct 10, 2017, 3:49 PM
RE Sources for Sustainable Communities,
Sep 21, 2016, 3:09 PM
Virginia Cleaveland,
Jul 5, 2017, 2:35 PM
Virginia Cleaveland,
Jul 5, 2017, 2:36 PM