Ecology agreement resolves King County stormwater permit violation

King County will fund three water-quality improvement projects, complete stormwater monitoring and pay a state penalty under an agreed order with the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology).

Ecology and the county have finalized the agreement to correct the county’s violation earlier this year of its municipal stormwater permit, issued by Ecology.  The permit requires King County – and other local governments – to maintain a program to control pollution carried into streams, lakes and marine waters by stormwater runoff.  This program includes stormwater monitoring.

King County’s stormwater permit requires three years of monitoring to provide data on the pollution content of stormwater at three discharge locations, representing different land use and development patterns. In January 2012, when the county had completed two and one-quarter years of sampling under this requirement, the county stopped collecting the samples required by the permit.

County officials believed that other ongoing sampling and testing could substitute for the permit-required monitoring. The county notified Ecology in March that it had suspended the required sampling program as part of a round of budget cuts.

“All of the state’s most-populated areas are required to follow their municipal stormwater permit requirements. King County is one of the state’s largest municipalities covered under the municipal stormwater permit,” said Kelly Susewind, who manages Ecology’s Water Quality Program.  “We therefore appreciate the county’s response to move forward under the order we have signed together to advance additional water quality improvements in the region.”

Stormwater – or polluted runoff – is the number one pollution problem in urban areas, threatening lakes, rivers and Puget Sound.  Monitoring provides information to help Ecology and local governments assess the severity of existing stormwater pollution and to measure progress in improving water quality protection.

King County resumed the remaining stormwater monitoring required under the permit in June.  The three-year studies are scheduled for completion in 2013.

The agreed order includes a package of projects and fines.  By January 2014, the county will spend $108,900 on three special projects not otherwise required under the municipal stormwater permit.

  • Soos Creek ($37,000): Replace about 65,000 square feet of invasive weeds along the creek bank in Hatchery Natural Park with native plants.  The project will help the creek meet water-quality standards for temperature and dissolved-oxygen content.


  • Patterson Creek ($37,000):  Replace about 55,000 square feet of invasive weeds with willow and other natural vegetation in the Patterson Creek Natural Area.  The shady plants will help the creek meet water temperature standards.


  • Hicklin Lake ($34,900): Conduct a pilot project on the lake in White Center to test the use of two artificial floating islands that will be planted with native wetland vegetation to remove excessive nitrogen and phosphorous from the water. The county will monitor the effectiveness of this approach.

The county will pay a $36,300 penalty to Ecology.  Ecology places water-quality penalty proceeds into a fund that provides grants to government agencies for environmental restoration projects.

The order also sets $36,300 in suspended penalties, which Ecology will dismiss after the county complies with all provisions of the agreement.

“This agreement demonstrates King County’s commitment to improving water quality in our lakes and streams by improving stormwater runoff quality,” said Mark Isaacson, Director of King County’s Water and Land Resources Division. “The fact that these projects don’t just improve water quality but also help with restoring our salmon is an added bonus.”

“Monitoring is one part of the important work local governments are doing under the stormwater permits,” Susewind said.  “They are controlling polluted stormwater runoff by finding and fixing problems, maintaining their stormwater facilities and educating the public through campaigns such as Puget Sound Starts Here.”


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