On March 3rd, ECOSS‘s Executive Director Kevin joined Alex and me in Tacoma to be part of the Northwest Environmental Business Council‘s (NEBC) conference on Managing Stormwater in Washington.

Held at the Hotel Murano, the conference was well attended and designed to address the current issues in construction and industrial stormwater management.

The opening panel in the morning was a controversial one, but an interesting way to kick start the conference. The panel was comprised of Ken Johnson from Weyerhaeuser, Josh Baldi from the Washington State Department of Ecology, Van Collins from the Associated General Contractors, and Sue Joerger from the Puget Soundkeeper Alliance. These stakeholders addressed the potential impacts of upcoming changes in stormwater regulation, representing a diverse spectrum of differing opinions on how to manage stormwater. Understanding the relationship between these parties made the tension in the room quite palpable.

The rest of the day was divided along two tracks, one for those interested in industrial stormwater and the other for people involved with the management of stormwater from construction sites.

There were several big take away points that I thought were important to address in this blog. Firstly, the copper and zinc benchmarks are going to be lowered drastically. Some of the numbers being thrown around were 14 ug/L and 63 ug/L respectively. This is a considerable change, which leads me to the second take away point addressed in the afternoon by Calvin Noling from StormwateRx . StomwateRx designs and installs industrial stormwater treatment and filtration systems, but during his presentation on pollution removal efficiency he declared that filtration systems alone will most likely not be sufficient to achieve the newly proposed copper and zinc benchmarks.

Finally, I wanted to address the overall content of the conference. Every single solution presented to manage stormwater was focused on dealing with water that had already been polluted. There was no discussion about prevention. All of the exhibitors were presenting highly engineered treatment devices, but there was no one there talking about how to keep stormwater from being polluted in the first place.

Americans have a habit of relying heavily on technological solutions to our problems. This alone is not the problem. However, what I am concerned about is we are talking exclusively about engineered technology as the solution to stormwater management. With drastically changing benchmarks, we are finding that technology alone cannot save us. We need to start thinking about stormwater in a more systemic way, relying less on technology to clean up our pollution and more on not polluting in the first place. Stormwater is as much an issue of source control and responsible purchasing as that of engineering and technological solutions.

-Todd Hunsdorfer

ECOSS Earth News, Green Business News
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