Re: “Washington state seeks tighter wastewater rules for Puget Sound, but sewage plant operators push back” [Nov. 27, Local News]:
Missing from the story is that Northwest Environmental Advocates (NWEA), King County and the state’s Department of Ecology all agree that, while sewage treatment plants may be the largest human source of excess nitrogen pollution in Puget Sound, so-called nonpoint sources — farming, logging, septic systems — are also significant.
Washington has been as slow to regulate nitrogen from these nonpoint sources as it has sewage treatment plants. Earlier this year, NWEA settled a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency that increases the likelihood that polluted runoff from nonpoint sources will be controlled. Without an effort to limit all sources of nitrogen pollution, achieving water quality benefits will be elusive, which is another way of saying that the burden is on both urban and rural residents to save Puget Sound.
There are huge side benefits in both cases. Removing nitrogen from sewage will also remove some toxics, including the entirely unregulated discharge of pharmaceuticals and personal-care products that are harming Chinook salmon. Streamside trees that prevent nitrogen runoff from farmland and commercial forests will also keep streams cool, which is essential to salmon survival.
Nina Bell, Portland, J.D., Executive Director, Northwest Environmental Advocates