Pullman Served With a Clean Water Act 60-Day Notice Letter
City of Pullman Up to Its Neck in Waste
Pullman, WA — April 21, 2010 – The next time you consider swimming or boating on the South Fork of the Palouse River, you might want to consider what you are getting into.
Based upon information obtained from the Washington Department of Ecology, The Land’s Council today sent the City of Pullman a Clean Water Act 60-day notice letter. The notice letter explains that the City’s stormwater system, sewage collection system, and wastewater treatment facility are impairing recreational and environmental uses of the South Fork of the Palouse River and the Palouse by discharging illegal and unsafe levels of fecal coliform bacteria, chlorine, PCBs (a known carcinogen), and ammonia, among other pollutants. Following the 60-day notice period, The Lands Council intends to seek legal remedies against the City of Pullman for its violations of the Clean Water Act.
The water quality problems facing the South Fork of the Palouse River pose a danger to local residents recreating in the water. One such person is Lands Council member Scott Cornelius, who recreates and maintains a trail for others to recreate along the South Fork of the Palouse River. “It is unfortunate that the contamination has risen to this level,” said Mr. Cornelius. “But we believe with a little push in the right direction, Pullman can begin fixing its pollution problems.”
One major problem facing Pullman, and the residents that use the water, is the excessive discharge of fecal coliform bacteria. These bacteria are found in human feces. Their presence in streams poses a health risk to swimmers and other water contact activities. Another problem is the discharge of toxins, such as PCB’s and the pesticide dieldrin from Pullman’s stormwater system. These carcinogenic and endocrine disrupting pollutants are persistent and attach to fatty cells in humans and fish, posing a long term health threat to those that come into contact with the water or those that eat the fish caught in the polluted water.
Instead of focusing its efforts on informing the public of the dangers posed by pollution in the South Fork of the Palouse River and taking responsibility for cleaning up the river, Pullman has focused on challenging the validity of the federal Clean Water Act. The City has made numerous pleas to the Governor and State Legislature with the hopes that either might provide Pullman with a special exemption, something Governor Christine Gregoire has flatly rejected as an abrogation of Pullman’s responsibilities under federal law. After failing to sway state government, Pullman asked Ecology rather bluntly what would happen if Pullman simply decided to ignore the requirements of the Clean Water Act.
“By focusing its efforts on fighting an environmental law that has been in effect for almost 40 years instead of complying with the law, the City of Pullman is wasting taxpayer money and harming the public’s use of the South Fork of the Palouse River” explained Jeff Briggs, a legal intern at the Gonzaga Environmental Law Clinic. “The City of Pullman cannot ignore its Clean Water Act permit requirements and must begin to address the pollution it is discharging into an already impaired waterbody” explained Briggs.
Pursuant to the Clean Water Act, the City of Pullman has a 60 day period to resolve its discharge problems. The Lands Council says it is committed to addressing this problem in a cooperative manner but reserves the right to follow through with the lawsuit in order to achieve long-term protection of the South Fork of the Palouse River.
Source: Down to Earth
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