EPA snubs state Ecology over attemps to reverse clean water rule

OLYMPIA — The leader of the state Department of Ecology claims that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is attempting to reverse the state’s clean water rule.

Ecology Director Maia Bell on Wednesday said the EPA’s 30-day comment period began April 8 without notification to Ecology, tribes, or the public.

“I’m shocked EPA did not engage with Washington before moving to change the clean water rule,” Bellon said. “This is a blatant violation of the principles of cooperative federalism and states’ rights. I am also very concerned EPA failed to consult with Washington’s federally recognized tribes, disregarding federal trust and treaty obligations.”

 As of Wednesday, EPA had not shared with Ecology any information on their proposal to reverse the current clean water rule in Washington.

The rule establishes water quality standards for lakes, rivers and marine waters to protect the health of people and fish, and to manage pollution caused by industries and municipalities, according to Bellon.

The current rule, which became known as the fish consumption rule, was finalized for Washington in 2016 after extensive public processes.

“For more than two and a half years, we’ve worked with communities, tribes, local governments, and businesses to implement the clean water rule,” said Bellon. “We fully expect any actions EPA takes now to reverse course will result in costly litigation that benefits no one. It is unnecessary and counterproductive to create this atmosphere of regulatory uncertainty — we already have a path forward that will lead to protective and practical clean water permits.”

Ecology has communicated with EPA in recent months that the state opposes any actions that would delay or prevent Washington from continuing to implement the clean water rule.

Ecology intends to submit formal comments by May 8, 2019, opposing any federal actions to reverse the 2016 clean water rule.

The EPA memo is available on the regulations.gov website. More information about the clean water rule in Washington is available.

SPOKANE - A fertilizer manufacturer has been fined $25,500 by the state Department of Ecology for operating a mobile fertilizer reactor without an air quality permit at a site near Moses Lake.

The fine is the third in the past two years for Pasco-based Pacific Northwest Solutions. The company was fined $5,000 in both 2019 and 2020 for failing to properly test equipment to ensure it met air quality emissions standards, according to Ecology.

“Protecting air quality is not optional for businesses in our state — it’s the law,” said David Knight, Air Quality manager for Ecology’s Eastern Region. “We hope Pacific Northwest Solutions takes this penalty seriously and brings its operations into compliance.

This third penalty was issued after an Ecology inspector found the company’s mobile fertilizer reactor operating without a permit on March 8 of this year near Moses Lake. An investigation found the reactor produced a total of 650 tons of ammonium polyphosphate liquid fertilizer over three days, according to Ecology.

Pacific Northwest Solutions has 30 days to file an appeal with the Washington Pollution Control hearings board.