Watchdogging Permits

You can make your voice heard anytime government agencies consider a pollution permit.

Third parties are vital to monitoring pollution

It takes sustained, vigilant action by individuals, organizations and communities to watchdog polluting industries in the U.S. Pollution by businesses is regulated under a permit system, granting 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.”

Third parties play a critical roll in monitoring pollution permits to protect everyone’s water and air. Our staff scientists monitor Whatcom and Skagit waterways along with Discharge Monitoring Reports to check for accurate and timely reporting as well as pollution exceedances.  Our team also crafts thorough, deeply-researched comments that carry particular weight for government agencies when they’re updating regulations or considering offering permits. Read more about how RE Sources and our North Sound Baykeeper team hold polluters accountable.

Your voice matters, too

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, the community can be part of the public process and comment on the details of the permit, calling for stronger environmental safeguards where necessary.

See current openings for you to weigh in on this page’s Take Action tab — it’s how you can speak up in favor of clean air, clean water, safer products and public places. We’ll share more than just individual business pollution permits on this page too, so be sure to check back regularly! We also send you Action Alerts when your comments can help sway decision-makers to protect public health and water quality. Sign up for our newsletters.

The Washington State Department of Ecology is the delegated authority to enforce clean water standards. Stormwater and wastewater are permitted under the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) and encompass several different categories, including:

When polluters don’t fit into one of the General Permit categories they are required to get a Water Quality Individual Permit, which as the name applies, is a unique permit written for that specific operation.  

Take Action

Be a part of changing the world


We will post current opportunities to comment on pollution permits, toxic site cleanups, projects that could add pollution, and more. We’ll include our comment (if we drafted one) that you are free to use to help craft your own!

There are no comment periods at this time. Check back later or sign up to receive Action Alerts when your comments can help sway decision-makers to protect public health and water quality.

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Stop pollution with your smartphone

Potential sources of pollution aren’t always obvious. Is something on the ground near water that seems like it shouldn’t be? Is something other than water making its way down a storm drain? Even if you aren’t sure, you can post a photo of anything that seems like it shouldn’t be going into our waterways! Learn more about how the Water Reporter app works and download our guide for spotting pollution — anytime, anywhere. Download the Water Reporter app on Android or iOS.

Download the guide

Our staff scientists and policy analysts take time to gather evidence and write carefully-researched comments on projects that threaten water quality, habitat, and human health. Below are a few recent examples. They provide additional context, relevant science and other critical issues for agencies to consider on everything from rock mines to toxic cleanup sites.

Bellingham waterfront:

Land development:

Filling in wetlands:

Environmental Justice: