Washington State Limits Copper and Zinc in Industrial Discharges


OLYMPIA, Washington, October 23, 2009 (ENS) – The Washington Department of Ecology Wednesday placed new limits on pollution in stormwater runoff from industrial facilities, affecting some 1,200 permitted facilities across the state.

Changes under the state’s new industrial stormwater permit reduce how much copper and zinc the industries can have in their stormwater discharges.

Copper and zinc harm salmon and aquatic life. Copper is commonly found in brake pads, paints and many industrial materials. It can cause salmon to lose their ability to sense the presence of predators and spawning grounds. Zinc is pervasive in industrial settings, washing off chain link fences and galvanized roofs. Zinc binds with silt and can harm or suffocate fish.

“We know that meeting these new permit requirements in the real world will be a challenge for some facilities and we will provide technical assistance,” said Kelly Susewind, who manages Ecology’s water quality program.

Susewind said, “We believe the new permit is reasonable and protective. It allows businesses the time and flexibility to reduce stormwater pollution with the knowledge that they’re complying with the Clean Water Act.”

Stormwater is the state’s largest source of urban water pollution. The industrial stormwater general permit covers a wide array of industry sectors including lumber, paper, printing, chemicals, petroleum, leather, stone, metals, ships, landfills, transportation, mills and food.

About 100 facilities apply to the Department of Ecology each year for coverage by this permit. Facilities pay a yearly fee to be covered by the permit and their permit fee is based on the size of their business. The fees are used to cover the costs of administering the permit.

Department of Ecology staffers collaborated with both environmental and industrial interests before they wrote the new permit, Susewind said.

The agency will hold workshops in January to educate people about the new permit requirements and will publish new stormwater sampling guidance and industry-specific guidance.

“We will use our website and email lists to keep industries informed about the technical assistance we will provide,” added Susewind.

The state’s industrial stormwater permit is intended to prevent pollution from industrial sites washing into streams, rivers and eventually the Pacific Ocean. The runoff picks up pollution and carries it into downstream waters or storm drains bypassing wastewater treatment facilities.

“Storm drains are essentially the upper reaches of our lakes, rivers, streams and Puget Sound,” Susewind said.

The permit is one of the state’s key tools to protect water quality throughout the state. About 70 percent of the state’s industrial stormwater general permit holders are in the 12 counties that border Puget Sound.

The new permit goes into effect January 1, 2010. Industries will have until mid-May to submit their first quarter 2010 stormwater discharge monitoring reports.

Industries will have until July 1 to implement newly required practices, including:

  • Vacuum-sweeping of paved surfaces once every three months
  • Keeping all dumpsters under cover and lid closed when not in use
  • Cleaning catch basins when they are full
  • Inspecting all equipment for leaking fluids and taking leaky machinery out of service until repaired

Ecology staffers wrote the new permit in plain language, minimizing technical jargon and simplifying wording to help facility managers better understand the new requirements.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2009. All rights reserved.

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