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Seattle City Council approves plan to protect local waters from pollutants

Councilmember Jean Godden
Councilmember Sally Bagshaw
Councilmember Richard Conlin

Seattle City Council approves plan to protect local waters from pollutants
Proposed pollution control plan expected to save ratepayers more than $375 million

 

SEATTLE — This afternoon the Seattle City Council unanimously approved a first-of-its-kind proposed agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Ecology that will ensure the systematic control of Seattle’s chronic sewage overflows, while allowing the city to use cost-effective and environmentally beneficial projects to control and treat both storm water and sewage.

The agreement, which took city, state and federal officials four years to negotiate, could save utility ratepayers as much as $375 million through 2025.

“This is a smart, responsible, and cost-effective way for Seattle to meet the goals of the federal Clean Water Act — using a new integrated approach that allows us better tools and strategic investments to protect the environment,” said Councilmember Jean Godden, chair of the Libraries Utilities and Center Committee. 

“This plan is a win-win. I’m honored to work together with environmental groups to ensure the protection of our waters for generations to come,” said Councilmember Sally Bagshaw, Libraries Utilities and Center Committee member.

“I’m very pleased that Seattle and our environmental community are committed to moving forward with this innovative, flexible, and less costly approach to solving our chronic water quality problems.” said Councilmember Richard Conlin, Libraries Utilities and Center Committee vice-chair.

Today’s vote has the support of key environmental leaders who had earlier raised questions about whether certain toxic compounds important to Puget Sound would be included in future analysis under the consent decree. The final legislation satisfies these environmental concerns. 

“Councilmember Godden asked us to try to address the concerns before the Council took final action.  I don’t think we ever had a large disagreement with the environmental community; but we all benefited significantly from sitting down together to focus on key interests,” said Martin Baker, Seattle Public Utilities Deputy Director, who led the consent decree negotiations with the state and federal government.

“This is a great start to protect our investment in the Superfund cleanup of the Duwamish River and shows the communities around the Duwamish that things can get better,” said James Rasmussen of the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition/TAG. 

“We applaud the city for working proactively to address CSOs and storm water as a partner in restoring the health of Puget Sound,” said Tom Bancroft, Executive Director of People for Puget Sound.

“As we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, the City of Seattle is showing their commitment to clean up sewer overflows and storm water runoff,” said Chris Wilke, Puget Soundkeeper and Executive Director at Puget Soundkeeper Alliance. “This is a very important step in the recovery of Puget Sound and our freshwater resources.”

In 2010, 190 million gallons of combined raw sewage and storm water spilled from city-owned pipes into Lake Washington, Lake Union, local creeks, the Duwamish River, and Elliott Bay, creating significant health and environmental risks.

Under the proposed plan, Seattle agrees it will meet its commitment to clean up sewage overflows under a specific and regulated schedule, to an average of one overflow per outfall per year (the standard established by the Washington state Department of Ecology) and meet requirements of the federal Clean Water Act.

Over the next 13 years, the city estimates it will spend about $500 million on capital construction projects, including retrofits, green infrastructure and large underground storage tanks, to implement the proposed agreement.

The plan next goes to the Mayor for signature followed by a federal court review, which will include a public hearing. The proposed agreement is expected to be finalized by the end of the year.

For more information about Seattle’s efforts to protect our waterways, go to www.seattle.gov/cso.

Seattle City Council meetings are cablecast and Webcast live on Seattle Channel 21 and on the City Council’s website. Copies of legislation, Council meeting calendar, and archives of news releases can be found on the City Council website. Follow the Council on Twitter and on Facebook.

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