The benefits to our health and the health of everything that lives in the Puget Sound are clear. It only takes a little sewage contamination to close a shellfish bed or make people sick. COURTESY PHOTO

We need to do more to clean Puget Sound | Being Frank

  • Wednesday, March 22, 2017 3:17pm
  • Opinion

The health of Puget Sound is getting some much-needed help from efforts to reduce polluted stormwater runoff and a proposed new law that would prohibit sewage discharge from boats.

Polluted stormwater runoff from urban areas is the number one source of pollution entering Puget Sound. When it rains, pollutants such as brake-pad dust, oil and other toxics are washed from our roadways into the sound.

The poison soup can be lethal to salmon throughout their life cycle. Returning adult salmon can die in as little as 15 minutes after exposure to polluted stormwater runoff.

The good news is that most pollutants can be removed from the water by pre-treating them through a natural filtration system.

That’s why we congratulate the city of Seattle for its efforts to increase the use of natural rain gardens and biofiltration systems, or bioswales. You can watch KING-5 TV’s story about the project here: go.nwifc.org/1rk.

Two bioswales are at work on Capitol Hill where polluted stormwater runoff pours into Lake Union and, ultimately, Puget Sound. The swales are situated in two block-long planting strips between sidewalks and curbs. Soil and plants inside the swales help trap about one-third of pollutants so they don’t wind up in the water.

These efforts should be expanded across the region. When added to other actions like increased street sweeping by local governments, they can be an inexpensive and effective part of the solution to the problem.

Salmon managers are working too hard and fishermen are sacrificing too much to get salmon back home only to see them die from polluted stormwater runoff.

We also applaud the state Department of Ecology for its work to establish Puget Sound as a no-discharge zone.

There are more than 150,000 recreational boats and more than 3,500 commercial vessels in the Puget Sound region. Most already have holding tanks for sewage, but until recent years there weren’t enough pump-out stations available to make the no-discharge zone possible.

Under current regulations, boats can dump partially treated sewage anywhere in the Sound. Raw sewage can be flushed from boats at least three miles from shore.

The no-discharge zone would protect an area of more than 2,300 square miles and include lakes Washington and Union. Surprisingly, it’s the first no-discharge zone established in Washington although there are more than 90 in 26 other states.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency expects to make a determination on the zone later this year.

The benefits to our health and the health of everything that lives in the Sound are clear. It only takes a little sewage contamination to close a shellfish bed or make people sick.

We are encouraged by these efforts to reduce polluted stormwater runoff and prevent boat sewage from being dumped into Puget Sound. We need more like them.

Lorraine Loomis is chair of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission.

More in Opinion

Will Trump trip help GOP’s congressional races?

Expect mega money to be spent on campaigns in the next three months

American giving surpassed $400 billion | Brunell

Philanthropy is what we continue to do well

Tribes support sea lion removal legislation

Federal legislation allowing lethal removal of more sea lions in the lower… Continue reading

Blue wave crashes through Republican lines drawn in primary showdown

Democratic challengers leading in nearly a dozen legislative districts across the state

Reporter cartoon, Frank Shiers
In tribute to Diego

A community mourns the loss of one of its finest.… Continue reading

Key races up for grabs as primary election nears | Cornfield

Aug. 7 primary looms for area candidates

All can consider, what would a great leader do? | Elfers

The time was 460 B.C. The place, across the Tiber River from… Continue reading

Does Washington need a ‘surgeon general’s warning’ for guns?

Initiative 1639 would require something similar on paperwork for firearms purchases.

GE’s Tumble from Grace | Brunell

Last month, General Electric lost its place among our nation’s top 30… Continue reading

Sweetest revenge? Sometimes it’s just being nice | Elfers

We need to be (re)taught how to be kind to others

Mental health competency delays are costing state millions

The state is paying millions of dollars a year in sanctions because… Continue reading