The Washington State Department of Ecology has introduced a new Puget Sound Nutrient General Permit to help control and reduce nitrogen discharges from wastewater treatment plants across Puget Sound.
Effective January 1st, 2022, 58 treatment plants located in the Puget Sound region will begin a multi-year path to mitigate the discharges of excess nutrients. The permit works in five-year cycles, utilizing public feedback and the results of permit implementation to refine requirements.
Facilities are split into 3 categories based on the amount of nitrogen discharges they produce: dominant (seven facilities), moderate (20 facilities), and small (31 facilities). These categories and requirements were developed based on two rounds of public comment and Advisory Committee feedback. Facilities in the dominant category will face additional requirements, as they currently produce over 80% of excess nutrient discharges in Puget Sound.
From 2022-2026, the permit will focus on prevention efforts, while identifying long-term upgrades and investments to control nutrients. During this 5-year period, facilities are required to monitor and collect data on nutrient discharges, optimize current treatment operations, and plan for infrastructure investments. Ecology estimates that optimizing treatment processes can reduce 5-7% of nitrogen discharges in this timeframe. Given the time and financial resources needed to implement major infrastructure improvements, it will take 15-20 years for nutrient control technologies to be online at most facilities.
This permit remains a crucial step in tracking the largest source of nutrient pollution in Puget Sound. Herrera looks forward to helping wastewater facilities implement permit requirements to support a healthy and resilient environment. More information on this permit can be found here.