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Groups Intervene in Federal Lawsuit to Protect Puget Sound No Discharge Zone

Keeping ship and boat sewage out of the sound is good for human health, local economy and wildlife

SEATTLE – Today, Washington Environmental Council, Puget Soundkeeper Alliance and Friends of the Earth will intervene in a federal lawsuit against the United States Environmental Protection Agency. After a seven-year process, tens of thousands of public comments and approval by both the Washington State Department of Ecology and U.S. EPA, American Waterways Operators has taken legal action to undermine Puget Sound’s designation as a No Discharge Zone. This rule prohibits ships and boats from discharging raw or partially-treated sewage across 2,300 square miles of marine waters as well as contiguous waters around Lake Washington and Lake Union.

Over 90 other major estuaries and waterbodies across the country are already designated No Discharge Zones, establishing a firm precedent of their legal and scientific merits.

Sewage contains bacteria and other pathogens that threaten shellfish beds and public health, especially in communities that harvest local shellfish. In May 2018, Puget Sound joined more than 90 other zones around the country, including the Great Lakes, the entire California coast and most of the Eastern seaboard. Puget Sound will be the first  one in Washington state. Within No Discharge Zone boundaries, boaters are required to hold sewage on board their vessels for disposal at pump-out facilities or outside the zone’s boundaries.

“Surveys have shown the vast majority of boaters already use pump out stations,” said Chris Wilke of Puget Soundkeeper Alliance. “After years of work and collaboration from dozens of stakeholders, we have a responsibility to put this plan into action.”

“At a time when we are watching our resident orcas slip into extinction and the overall health of our Sound is in decline, it’s frankly outrageous that anyone would try to subvert such a common sense solution,” said Mindy Roberts, Puget Sound program director for the Washington Environmental Council.

Marcie Keever of Friends of the Earth added that “hundreds of thousands of people rely on a healthy, thriving Puget Sound for their livelihood, recreation and daily meals. We are not willing to stand by and allow one bad actor to reverse years of effort to protect Puget Sound.”

The groups are represented by Earth Justice attorneys Paulo Palugod and Jan Hasselman. Intervention into the lawsuit was filed today, in U.S. District Court, District of Columbia.

Additional details about the rule:

The vast majority of commercial and recreational boats already comply with this rule. Over 100 pump-out stations serve the region and provide low- or no-cost convenient service.  Free adapters are offered for recreational vessels to connect with pump-outs around the region.

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, drawing over 25,000 comments in support. Another two years of extensive stakeholder engagement led to the final petition to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in July 2016. In February 2017, EPA confirmed that sewage pump-out facilities are adequate and available to serve commercial and recreational vessels, after receiving over 40,000 comments in support. Some commercial vessels have five years to comply so that they can upgrade their sewage systems.

For more information about the Puget Sound No Discharge Zone proposal, see: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/wq/nonpoint/CleanBoating/nodischargezone.html

Expert contact: Marcie Keever, (415) 999-3992, mkeever@foe.org
Communications contact: Patrick Davis, (202) 222-0744, pdavis@foe.org

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