SEATTLE, Wash. -- The Seattle City Council unanimously approved a first-of-its-kind proposed agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Ecology that will ensure the systematic control of Seattle's chronic sewage overflows, while allowing the city to use cost-effective and environmentally beneficial projects to control and treat both storm water and sewage.
The agreement, which took city, state and federal officials four years to negotiate, could save utility ratepayers as much as $375 million through 2025.
"This is a smart, responsible, and cost-effective way for Seattle to meet the goals of the federal Clean Water Act — using a new integrated approach that allows us better tools and strategic investments to protect the environment," said Councilmember Jean Godden, chair of the Libraries Utilities and Center Committee.
The vote has the support of key environmental leaders who had earlier raised questions about whether certain toxic compounds important to Puget Sound would be included in future analysis under the consent decree. The final legislation satisfies these environmental concerns.
"Councilmember Godden asked us to try to address the concerns before the Council took final action. I don't think we ever had a large disagreement with the environmental community; but we all benefited significantly from sitting down together to focus on key interests," said Martin Baker, Seattle Public Utilities Deputy Director, who led the consent decree negotiations with the state and federal government.
In 2010, 190 million gallons of combined raw sewage and storm water spilled from city-owned pipes into Lake Washington, Lake Union, local creeks, the Duwamish River, and Elliott Bay, creating significant health and environmental risks.
Under the proposed plan, Seattle agrees it will meet its commitment to clean up sewage overflows under a specific and regulated schedule, to an average of one overflow per outfall per year, the standard established by the Washington state Department of Ecology, and meet requirements of the federal Clean Water Act.
Over the next 13 years, the city estimates it will spend about $500 million on capital construction projects, including retrofits, green infrastructure and large underground storage tanks, to implement the proposed agreement.
The plan next goes to Mayor Mike McGinn for signature followed by a federal court review, which will include a public hearing. The proposed agreement is expected to be finalized by the end of the year.
SOURCE: City of Seattle