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Environmental Group Sues Over Water Pollution In Washington State

An environmental group filed a lawsuit Wednesday accusing Washington state of failing to control water pollution along the coast and Puget Sound.

Portland-based Northwest Environmental Advocates is asking a U.S. district court to force two federal agencies – the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – to cut funding to the state as a form of punishment.

The agencies are supposed to withhold at least a third of federal grant funds to states that fail to protect coastal water quality, under the Coastal Zone Act Reauthorization Amendments, or CZARA.

"Congress was very clear that the federal agencies are required to use fear of funding losses to kick coastal states into high gear on protecting water quality," said Nina Bell, director of NWEA.

Bell said federal regulators notified the Washington Department of Ecology in 1998 that the state wasn't controlling water pollution from farming, urban storm runoff, and other problem areas.

"There is no evidence that at any point in the last 18 years Washington has improved its control of polluted runoff," Bell said. "Certainly Puget Sound is as polluted as ever."

The group was successful in a similar lawsuit filed against the state of Oregon in 2009. Earlier this year, federal regulators cut funding to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development by $1.2 million.

The Washington Department of Ecology declined to comment on the lawsuit. The agency receives an around $3 million a year on average from the EPA and around $2 million a year on average from NOAA to support programs that address water pollution along the coast.

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