City looks to reduce impact on Puget Sound


Federal Way completed its first step of a four-year effort to increase the quality of state waterways though the improvement of the city’s surface water management programs.

On March 18, the city council approved an annual report of its efforts, to be submitted to the Washington State Department of Ecology. Improvements and upgrades will be carried out over the next few years, with the goal of reducing impacts to waterways such as Puget Sound.

The process is required to obtain a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit, which regulates storm and wastewater discharge to state waters.

“The first year of the permit is really an opportunity to review your existing codes and see how they dovetail into what the permit requires,” surface water manager Paul Bucich said.

In recent years, the city has made improvements to how it manages surface water, city council member Jeanne Burbidge said. Catch basins, where development has occurred, assist in controlling how much and at which rate run-off water is released, she said.

This helps avoid erosion, and is a way for some materials to filter out of the water, Burbidge said. Drainage ditches are also filled with grass, which helps filter run-off surface and storm water, she said.

But the city has found that in order to successfully manage surface water, the public must be involved.

More public education and follow-up on that education is needed, Bucich said. This will be a focus in the city’s second year of the permitting process, he said. Posters, press releases and brochures will be available to the public and media.

Though the city has done public education on the issue in the past, it now must continue that education and making sure residents practice ways to keep bodies of water clean and safe, Bucich said.

“We are not checking to find out later if behaviors have changed,” Bucich said.

While some residents are aware of how their individual actions impact the Puget Sound and local water bodies, such as the West Hylebos Creek, many are still unaware that the city’s surface and storm drainage eventually empties into the Puget Sound, Bucich said. In most areas of the city, the storm water on streets and in parking lots is not filtered before it ends up there, he said.

“A lot of people are still under the mistaken belief that storm water goes through a filtration system,” Bucich said. “It does not.”

There is an importance for residents to be educated on how their actions harm bodies of water that benefit the region economically, recreationally and aesthetically, said Burbidge, who serves on the ecosystem coordination board for Puget Sound Partnership.

“If it looks good on the surface, we are not always aware that there may be problems on a different level,” Burbidge said of Puget Sound.

Maintaining vehicles as a way to prevent fluid leakage and managing one’s yard without the use of pesticides or fertilizers are two examples of how residents can help prevent harmful chemicals from reaching Puget Sound, Bucich said.

Being aware that some substances, even kitty litter, can harm the quality of waterways is important, he said. Taking one’s car to a carwash where the water is recycled and soap suds are removed is another way to protect the waterway, Burbidge said. The city even offers carwash kits that help minimize human impact to the Puget Sound and other bodies of water, she said.

“There is a lot more education that can be done,” Burbidge said.

The city must complete five program elements within the next four years to meet permit standards. Public involvement and participation, illicit discharge detection and elimination, construction site run-off and operations and maintenance of post-construction storm water facilities are areas the city will address.

“It’s our way of telling (the Department of Ecology) and the public what we are doing,” Bucich said.

Contact Jacinda Howard: or (253) 925-5565


Check it out:

Visit the city’s surface water management Web site at to learn more about the Department of Ecology issued National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Phase II Storm Water Permit. Information pertaining to the city’s public education and involvement, as well as illicit discharge detection and elimination efforts can be found at the same web address. To learn more about Puget Sound Partnership, visit the Web site

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