SEATTLE – The city of Seattle and King County have agreed to make a total of $1.46 billion in upgrades to their sewer systems to reduce the amount of polluted water that enters Puget Sound and other waterways, under settlements reached with the federal government.
The settlements resolve claims by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and state Department of Ecology that the county and city violated the federal Clean Water Act by discharging raw sewage and other pollutants into local waters.
The consent decree was negotiated over several years by local, state and federal officials and was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Seattle.
“It really represents a big step forward,” said Dennis McLerran, EPA administrator for the region that includes Washington.
He said Seattle and King County are working to find cost-effective, innovative ways to control pollution and prevent heavy rains from overwhelming sewer pipes and storm drains.
The settlements allow the county and city greater flexibility to use so-called green infrastructure such as green roofs, rain gardens and bioswales to improve water quality, McLerran said.
“We think it’s smart. It builds better communities,” he said.
King County Executive Dow Constantine said Tuesday that the county is poised to make significant investments in projects that will help clean up Puget Sound and the lower Duwamish River in Seattle.
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn said last year, when the agreement was proposed, that the new approach would give the city better tools to protect water quality and make better investments.
The Department of Justice said Tuesday the county will pay a civil penalty of $400,000. The city’s civil penalty is $350,000.
The settlement is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval.