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First-of-its-kind Agreement Sets Course to Keep Puyallup River Healthy

Release Date: 6/24/1998
Contact Information: Alan Henning
(206) 553-8293

June 24, 1998 - - - - - - - - - - - 98-35

In an agreement believed to be the first of its kind in the country, more than 20 parties in Pierce County -- representing industry, Indian tribes, citizen and environmental groups, local governments, and state and federal environmental agencies -- have set a course that allows future growth in the Puyallup River watershed while protecting water quality.

The agreement was announced today by three of its major sponsors, the Washington Department of Ecology, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Puyallup Indian Tribe.

EPA regards the agreement as a landmark in water quality management, according to Phil Millam, director of the office of water at EPA's Northwest regional headquarters in Seattle.

"The agreement strikes a balance between growth in the Puyallup watershed and the need for a healthy river," said
Millam.  "The parties to the agreement have individually committed themselves to actions that collectively will make sure wastewater discharges won't overload the Puyallup with effluent that would cause violations of state water quality standards."

"Almost as important as the agreement itself is the process by which it was reached," said Bob Duffy of Ecology's water quality program.  "The groups that produce pollution were asked to devise their own plan -- state and federal agencies did not tell them how to do it."

The agreement, over a year in the making, focuses on pollutants commonly discharged by municipal sewage treatment plants and industries:  ammonia and other substances which create a biochemical oxygen demand.  Ammonia can have a toxic effect on fish and other aquatic wildlife.  Substances that place a biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) on the river deplete the water of oxygen needed to support fish.

Although the Puyallup River currently meets state water quality standards for dissolved oxygen and ammonia, a 1994 Ecology water quality study of the river identified the potential for future problems.  As a result, Ecology set limits on the river's "reserve capacity" for handling BOD and ammonia.  The agreement sets forth a plan for allocating the reserve capacity so it will never be exhausted and the river's health will be protected well into the future.

Participants in the agreement represent a broad cross-section of interests.  Cities have a stake because their wastewater treatment plants' discharges and runoff from their streets affect the river.  Industries are involved due the large amounts of water they discharge.  The Puyallup Tribe of Indians and the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe were included because of their land ownership and their regard for protecting natural resources. Also, the Puyallup Tribe has been delegated federal Clean Water Act authority to administer water quality standards in the Puyallup River within its reservation.

In addition to the Puyallups, the Muckleshoots, Ecology and EPA, the parties to the agreement are:

Pierce CountyCity of Bonney Lake
Beatrice Cheese CompanyCity of Buckley
Matsushita SemiconductorCity of Enumclaw
Sonoco ProductsCity of Orting
Town of CarbonadoCity of Puyallup
Town of South Prairie City of Sumner
Town of Wilkeson City of Tacoma
Trout UnlimitedCitizens for a Healthy Bay
Washington State Department of Fish and WildlifeWashington State Department of Social and Health Services

Sandy Howard Rudnick    
(360) 407-6239          

Bill Sullivan
Puyallup Indian Tribe
(253) 573-7850