Department of Ecology | KNKX

Department of Ecology

The milking parlor at Jason Sheehan’s Yakima Valley dairy operates nearly 24 hours a day. As a member of a groundwater advisory committee, he’s worked to show people the updates he’s made to reduce nitrates from his operation. He says nitrates also come f
Courtney Flatt / Northwest Public Broadcasting file

It’s back to the drawing board for state regulators, after the Washington Court of Appeals ordered the Department of Ecology to rework permits for confined animal feeding operations, known as CAFOs.

 

Debris and litter flying out of truck beds can cause up to 300 crashes per year in Washington and account for at least 40% of roadside litter, according to the State Patrol and Department of Ecology.
Washington Department of Ecology / via Twitter

We’ve all probably seen it: a vehicle driving down the highway with boxes and tools and furniture jammed into the back of bed. A chunk of something might fly out at any moment. It hasn’t been properly tied down.

A grain ship sails the Columbia River at the Port of Kalama, where a Chinese-backed company wanted to build a methanol plant.
ASHLEY AHEARN, KUOW / EARTHFIX

A company backed by the Chinese government on Friday ended its seven-year effort to build one of the world’s largest methanol plants along the Columbia River in southwestern Washington, following a series of regulatory setbacks and a long debate over its environmental footprint.

A grain ship sails the Columbia River at the Port of Kalama, where a Chinese-backed company wanted to build a methanol plant.
ASHLEY AHEARN, KUOW / EARTHFIX

Officials in Washington state denied a key permit for a large proposed methanol plant Tuesday, saying the project that aims to send the chemical to China to be used in everything from fabrics and contact lenses to iPhones and medical equipment would pump out too much pollution.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Oyster growers on the Washington coast will have a chance to convince regulators to let them use a controversial pesticide to control native burrowing shrimp. The shrimp can infest oyster beds and turn them into quicksand. Members of the Willapa Bay Grays Harbor Oyster Growers Association say they’ve lost hundreds of acres of tidelands to the problem.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

A proposal to spray a neurotoxic pesticide on oyster beds in Southwest Washington is back on the table. Growers in Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor are looking for ways to address an infestation of burrowing shrimp.

The state is taking comments on the controversial plan through Wednesday.

Ned Ahrens / King County Wastewater Treatment Division

The breakdown last month of Seattle’s wastewater treatment plant has poured hundreds of millions of gallons of untreated stormwater and raw sewage into Puget Sound. Repairs alone will cost an estimated $25 million. And it’s expected to take till the end of April to get the West Point Treatment Plant back to normal. Until then, the broken wastewater facility will be violating its permit and polluting Puget Sound.

'Blueberries' by Mike Licht is licensed under CC BY 2.0 bit.ly/2ii5Uh1

The Washington State Department of Ecology says it's fining a Whatcom County berry grower more than $100,000 for years of illegal water use.

Officials say that since 2011, Ecology staff have tried to work with Gurjant "George" Sandhu to bring him into compliance with water laws. But they say he continued to irrigate his 220-acre raspberry farm the past two years without water rights for much of the property, and that he failed to submit water-use records for a 120-acre blueberry farm.

Ted S. Warren, File / AP Photo

The Environmental Protection Agency has given a preliminary green light to ban all vessels from dumping sewage in Puget Sound. It’s the latest step in a long effort by the state and environmental groups.

Washington’s Department of Ecology has been working for several years to get a federal ban on sewage dumping for Puget Sound and issued a formal petition requesting it this summer. The EPA has established more than 90 of these so-called “no discharge” zones in 26 states, but this would be the first in the Northwest.

Matthew Brown / AP Photo

State officials say BNSF Railway will pay $75,000 to settle a 2015 penalty for water quality violations.

The Department of Ecology said Monday the railway agreed to the fine for placing creosote-treated railroad ties in water during maintenance projects in Whatcom and Skagit counties.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

Boats will soon be forbidden from releasing sewage anywhere in Puget Sound if the state Department of Ecology has its way. The agency is seeking federal protection, asking the EPA to declare the Sound a “no discharge zone” for vessel sewage.  

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

Washington state’s Department of Ecology says the magnitude of threats from climate change are so severe, it needs to set limits on air pollution. The agency released an updated rule to cap carbon emissions that it says will be more effective than the draft Clean Air Rule it released in February. But the rewrite is controversial.  

AP Images

Several hundred facilities in Washington handle medical and pharmaceutical waste. It’s a process that can easily go wrong. An enforcement action this week is sparking a fresh look at the rules surrounding the industry.

The state department of Ecology has fined Stericycle $72,000 for repeated violations of federal waste regulations. K Seiler, who manages compliance and enforcement, says spot checks found the company’s facility in Morton was sterilizing solid materials. That took care of the germs in its infectious waste. But there were also residuals from pharmaceuticals.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

Researchers want you to grab the camera, head to the beach and capture this weekend's king tide.

The highest tides of the year are taking place, and the state is asking citizens to help document potential impacts of rising sea levels. 

How much fish is safe to eat? That’s the key question in a federal lawsuit filed today

The plaintiffs are trying to force stricter limits on pollution in local waters. A coalition of groups including clean water advocates, tribes, and the commercial fishing industry have filed suit against the Environmental Protection Agency.

Erin Hennessey photo / KPLU News

Scoping hearings begin tomorrow on a proposed coal export terminal in Longview, near the Columbia River.  It’s one of two Washington terminals that would ship coal from the Powder River Basin in Montana and Wyoming to Asia.

Elaine Thompson / Associated Press

Environmentalists are applauding the state Department of Ecology, which announced it will conduct an extensive review of the proposed coal export terminal at Cherry Point near Bellingham. 

woodleywonderworks photo / Flickr

The official estimate of how much fish people eat dictates the levels of pollution that are allowed, and a statewide coalition of clean water advocates says an accurate standard is long overdue.

Waterkeepers Washington is threatening to sue the federal government over lack of enforcement.

jpellgen / Flickr

Washington state House Democrats removed funds for a fish-consumption study from the final budget. That went against the wishes of one of the state's biggest business interests, Boeing.

The state Department of Ecology currently assumes that people in Washington eat about one meal of fish a month. But the state acknowledges the standard is out of date; many people eat a lot more fish than that.

Tribes and environmental groups have been urging the state to update its standard and require stricter regulation of water pollution. But that has been met with resistance from businesses, including Boeing.

Bellamy Pailthorp photo / KPLU News

Scientists examining the health of Puget Sound have uncovered a new mystery involving the very bottom of the food chain.

A new study from the state Department of Ecology shows toxins in sediments have declined over the past decade. But it also found declining health of the creatures that live in the sediment. 

jpellgen / Flickr

How much fish should you eat? The state Department of Health recommends two meals of fish a week. But the Department of Ecology assumes people eat far less, about the equivalent of one meal per month.

That’s because it uses those assumptions to calculate how much water pollution can be legally allowed in Washington—pollution that ends up in the fish we eat.

Efforts to change that standard have stalled, and Washington's tribes, fed up, are calling on federal authorities to intervene.

Wonderlane photo / Flickr

The city of Seattle and King County will spend $1.46 billion on upgrades to public sewer systems aimed at reducing the amount of polluted water entering the Puget Sound and other waterways, according to a federal settlement filed under the Clean Water Act. 

Under the agreement, the city and county will also pay $750,000 in fines for dumping raw sewage into the Sound and several lakes. 

Bellamy Pailthorp / KNKX file

Seattle’s Duwamish River was once a meandering estuary in the heart of the city. A century ago, it was transformed into an industrial waterway and used as a dumping ground for decades.

Now it’s a Superfund site – and the Environmental Protection Agency has released a plan to clean it up.

US Coast Guard photo / courtesy Washington Dept of Ecology

Two derelict vessels are sinking in a bankrupt marina near Tacoma. Fire fighters have circled them with oil booms to contain any pollutants. 

The incident is the latest in a series of stories that show the link between ecological health and the economy.

The two boats in question were chained together when one of them, the Helena Star, began to sink. The other, the Golden West, was listing badly when coast guard and firefighters got to the scene.

Courtesy Washington BEACH program / Wa State dept of ecology

Thinking of heading for the beach this weekend?  You’re mostly safe.

A California non-profit has just issued its 3rd annual end-of-summer report card on water quality, including beaches in Washington and Oregon. It shows almost all As and Bs in the northwest…but also 3 “F” grades.

courtesy Wa Dept of Ecology

Climate change is happening, and not preparing for it could cost the state $10 billion a year by 2020.

That’s according to the Department of Ecology, which has just released a response strategy to changing climate conditions.

Courtesy of Washington Department of Ecology

Washington State already has some of the highest oil spill readiness standards in the country – if not in the world.

An update to those regulations is raising that bar even higher.

The tightening is in response to the catastrophic BP oil spill nearly two years ago in the Gulf of Mexico. 

The new law places new requirements on oil companies operating in Puget Sound or on the Columbia River.

CocteauBoy / Flickr

Statewide, recycling for Washington State has reached the highest rates ever.  The biggest areas in which people are doing more are in reusing construction materials and composting food waste…and then there are those pesky Christmas trees.

Recycling rates have grown to 49% statewide – higher than ever. It’s an increase of 14% more than the prior year. 

But even though we’ve all become great at composting, many people still aren’t sure how to dispose of their Christmas trees.

A big ruling in a federal suit brought against the state aims to force more regulation of one of the biggest sources of air pollution: oil refineries.

Cruise ships will be prohibited from discharging wastewater into a protected marine sanctuary off the outer coast of Washington state's Olympic Peninsula under new rules taking effect next week.

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