On June 16, 2022, Puget Soundkeeper announced its intent to sue the cities of Burien, SeaTac, Normandy Park, Seattle, and Mukilteo, over what they say is a failure to control and report stormwater discharges.

The nonprofit organization says the cities “have failed to control and report stormwater discharges into three urban salmon streams – Miller Creek, Pipers Creek and Big Gulch – despite conclusive evidence that road runoff carrying toxic chemicals like 6PPD-quinone kills coho salmon in these waterways.”

Puget Soundkeeper sent Clean Water Act notices about their intent to sue – the first step in any clean water litigation – to the five municipalities due to their failure to comply with permit notification requirements.

Soundkeeper has 60 days from the date of intent before it can file an enforcement action in federal court.

“Failure to control this stormwater and report it to the Washington Department of Ecology is a violation of the Clean Water Act and the cities’ state-issued Municipal Stormwater Permits, which regulate polluted stormwater discharges,” the organization said.

We reached out to the City of Burien for comment, but they did not respond.

Soundkeeper says that research dating back well over 10 years consistently shows that salmon die after they enter Pipers Creek, Big Gulch, and Miller Creek to spawn. Data and modeling from a host of federal and state agencies show similar results for coho in waterways around the Sound and throughout the West Coast.

“Our salmon have been dying due to stormwater pollution for decades,” said Puget Soundkeeper Executive Director Sean Dixon. “6PPD-quinone is a solvable crisis, but only if we act without delay.”

According to their website:

“Puget Soundkeeper’s mission is to protect and enhance the waters of Puget Sound for the health and restoration of our aquatic ecosystems and the communities that depend on them.

“Our vision is for a Puget Sound teeming with diverse marine life and providing safe opportunities for swimming, fishing, recreation and sustainable economic activity. We seek a Sound that supports the lifeways and traditional cultural practices of indigenous peoples; provides all communities with a clean, healthy place to live and work; and once again is home to an abundance of salmon and orca.”

Here’s more from Puget Soundkeeper:

Recent research conducted by the University of Washington, the University of Washington Tacoma, and Washington State University Puyallup identified 6PPD-quinone as the toxic tire chemical responsible for killing coho salmon before they’re able to spawn. This phenomenon, known as coho Pre-Spawn Mortality Syndrome, was observed for decades before pinpointing 6PPD-quinone as the cause.

Decades of companion studies have consistently shown that 6PPD-quinone’s toxic effects can be prevented through a host of best practices for stormwater management, including certain green infrastructure installations that filter polluted stormwater through mixtures of soils and sand.

“When it comes to stormwater and coho Pre-Spawn Mortality, we know the cause and we have a solution,” said Puget Soundkeeper’s Clean Water Program Director, Alyssa Barton.We look forward to collaborating with regional municipalities as they implement green stormwater infrastructure solutions for new and existing development, ensuring our urban streams are clean and healthy for salmon and people.”

The City of Seattle owns at least nine stormwater outfalls that empty into Pipers Creek. Big Gulch receives stormwater discharge from approximately 12 outfalls owned by the City of Mukilteo, while Normandy Park, Burien, and Seatac together own dozens of outfalls that spill into Miller Creek.

“The permits are clear: municipalities must take action when they know about toxic pollution,” said Puget Soundkeeper Attorney Katherine Brennan. “Today’s notices give each of the five municipalities 60 days to come into compliance with their permits and take a step toward addressing the 6PPD-quinone crisis.”

More info about Puget Soundkeeper is here: https://pugetsoundkeeper.org.