Northwest Environmental Advocates (NWEA) will use litigation and advocacy to bring the Clean Water Act (CWA) to bear on water pollution in Puget Sound. The CWA requires a series of linked actions by state and federal regulators to ensure that dischargers do not cause or contribute to violations of water quality standards that are established to protect human health, fish, and wildlife. The CWA and Coastal Zone Act Reathorization Amendments (CZARA) also require federal agencies to ensure that Washington carries out nonpoint source pollution control programs.
In contrast, the Department of Ecology, with federal agency approval, has long ignored legal requirements when issuing discharge permits, thereby failing to control major sources of pollution to Puget Sound. Likewise, Ecology has a mere fig leaf of a nonpoint source program that fails to protect the Sound from agriculture, septic systems, run-off, and logging. This project includes multiple lawsuits to trigger federal actions that are intended to propel the state into carrying out federal law properly, controlling pollution from both point and nonpoint sources.
To a significant extent, these ongoing and planned lawsuits target nutrient pollution, which causes water quality problems such as low dissolved oxygen, massive algal blooms, and food web changes. However, focusing on nutrient pollution is also strategic because nutrient treatment technology also removes many regulated and unregulated toxic pollutants, including personal care products and pharmaceuticals. The lawsuits build off decades of studies conducted by Ecology and many years of failure by agencies to respond to the results.
Accompanying the litigation are education and outreach activities including educating reporters on how the regulatory programs are intended to work and increased use of social media. Where the outcome of litigation provides for public involvement, NWEA will work with other groups in Washington to organize that effort.