In late February 14, the United States District Court in Washington, DC, overturned a decision by US waterway operators and the Trump administration’s former US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to halt the implementation of a no-discharge zone (NDZ) for Washington’s Puget Sound. State. The NDZ, first proposed in 2012, prohibits ships and boats from discharging raw or partially treated sewage into the 2,300 square miles of marine waters as well as contiguous waters around Lake Washington and Lake Union. . Trump’s EPA tried to withdraw its NDZ approval to reconsider compliance costs to industry, and as the court put it, “take a second bite out of the apple.”
Through this case, Trump-era EPA officials had attempted to undermine Clean Water Act protections by reopening the cost-benefit analysis of Washington State’s NDZ. This analysis required years of work with public stakeholders, including environmental organizations and US waterway operators. Tens of thousands of people have submitted public comments at the state and federal level in support of this vital protection for clean water.
“The judge’s decision affirming the Puget Sound no-discharge zone is great news for clean water everywhere,” said Mindy Roberts, Puget Sound Program Director with the Washington Environmental Council and Washington Conservation Voters. “Trump’s EPA has used every tool to attempt to undermine basic environmental laws from the inside. This final ruling closes the door to an industry-led effort with a direct line to policymakers. This is not not just good for protecting the waters of Puget Sound, but all waters protected by the Clean Water Act.
Wastewater contains bacteria and other pathogens that threaten shellfish beds, animal life and public health, especially in communities that live off local fish. Within the boundaries of the no-discharge zone, boaters are required to retain sewage on board their vessels for disposal in pumping facilities or outside the boundaries of the zone. Tug industry lobbyists tried to undermine the state-appointed rule by appealing to Trump’s EPA. Puget Sound now joins more than 90 other areas across the country, including in the Great Lakes and along the entire California coast. This is the first in Washington State.
“We all have a crucial role to play in protecting the Puget Sound we love for future generations. This place is a treasure, not a toilet. noted Katelyn Kinn, senior counsel for Puget Soundkeeper. “The no-dump area is a common-sense solution, and we are grateful to see it preserved.”
“Hundreds of thousands of people depend on a healthy and thriving Puget Sound for their livelihoods, recreation, and as an essential food source. Washington’s waters are far too precious and important to allow ships to discharge their sewage,” said Marcie Keever, director of the oceans and ships program at Friends of the Earth. “This decision cements efforts to keep clean water protections in place for Puget Sound for our communities and for future generations.”
“Puget Sound is one of the jewels in the nation’s environmental and economic crown. The Court made the right decision in rejecting an attempt by the Trump administration to undermine a key provision of the Clean Water Act that protects our people and our ecosystem,” added Paulo Palugod, lawyer for Earthjustice in Seattle, WA. “The Court recognized the importance of our stewardship when we ‘stepped in’ to defend Puget Sound when the Trump-EPA would not.”
See Laura Watson, Director of the Washington State Department of Ecology Tweeter and news post.
Additional details on the no-discharge area:
The vast majority of commercial and recreational boats already comply with this rule. Over 100 pump stations serve the area and offer convenient service at low or no cost. Free adapters are offered to pleasure craft to connect to drains in the area.
The Washington State Department of Ecology released a draft petition for the no-discharge zone in 2014 after two years of stakeholder engagement with industry groups, environmental organizations, government agencies and the public, attracting more than 25,000 supporting comments. Two more years of extensive stakeholder engagement led to the final petition to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in July 2016. In February 2017, the EPA confirmed that the sewage pumping facilities are adequate and available to service commercial and recreational vessels, having received over 40,000 supporting comments. . Some commercial ships have five years to comply so they can upgrade their sewage systems.