Schoesler introduces bill to reduce pollution in Puget Sound

For many years, environmentalists and others have decried increasing pollution in Puget Sound, pointing out how it is harming water quality and the wildlife that relies on the sound.

Even though he lives hundreds of miles from the waterway, 9th District Sen. Mark Schoesler has introduced a proposal that aims to help make Puget Sound cleaner.

“It’s no secret that Puget Sound has become more polluted over the years, and one key reason is the recent raw sewage spills from publicly owned domestic wastewater treatment plants,” said Schoesler, R-Ritzville, who pointed to last January’s accident in which 11 million gallons of storm water and untreated sewage escaped from Seattle’s West Point Treatment Plant into Puget Sound. “Governor Inslee and others make a big deal about having stream buffers to protect water and fish and keeping untreated stormwater and runoff out of the sound, but I think they haven’t given raw sewage spills from treatment plants the same level of concern. This is a serious problem that should be addressed now. This bill would help us get there, and it is a better policy approach to protecting salmon than stream buffers and breaching the Snake River dams.”

Schoesler’s measure, Senate Bill 5786, would aim to protect Puget Sound from wastewater pollution by requiring the state Department of Ecology to strengthen the sound’s nutrient general permit. The measure has been referred to the Senate Environment, Energy and Technology Committee for consideration.

“The sewage entering Puget Sound is not only unhealthy and dangerous for humans, it also is unhealthy and dangerous for the fish, shellfish, marine animals and birds that live in or near the sound,” said Schoesler. “If we really care about Puget Sound and the wildlife that relies on it, we need to start focusing on keeping raw sewage from polluting the sound.”

Schoesler said Ecology has identified publicly owned domestic wastewater treatment plants as a significant source of excess nutrients, such as nitrogen, which contribute to low oxygen levels in Puget Sound. However, the department’s Puget Sound nutrient general permit, which took effect on Jan. 1 this year, will not sufficiently protect Puget Sound from pollution caused by raw sewage.