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Puget Sound wastewater plants may need billions to meet state mandates

Dec 9, 2022

An effort to protect Puget Sound's marine life has ignited a debate over a new environmental mandate that wastewater treatment plants say will cost billions and lacks clear science to back it up.

The Washington State Department of Ecology issued a permit, effective in January 2022, that requires municipal wastewater treatment plants that discharge into the Sound — there are 58 of them — to reduce the amount of certain nutrients in their discharge.

"We cannot ignore what science and common sense are telling us: with more people living in Puget Sound, we have more nutrients going into the water," Vince McGowan, the Department of Ecology's water quality program manager, said in a July 2021 news release. "Wastewater treatment plants are the gatekeepers for nutrients and the solution to this problem. Upgrading these facilities takes smart planning and significant investment, which is why we need this permit now, so the work to restore Puget Sound gets underway."

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