Issaquah city officials last week filed to appeal an immediate action order from the Department of Ecology requiring groundwater monitoring.
Issued in July, the order calls for the city to drill wells and implement an extensive monitoring system at the Lower Reid Infiltration Gallery (LRIG), which state and other officials say may be affected by stormwater runoff from the Issaquah Highlands.
Among other things, lawyers for the city wrote that the Department of Ecology was off base in its claim that discharges from the LRIG have a substantial potential to pollute waters of the state.
They stated that the DOE relied on information supplied by the Sammamish Plateau Water & Sewer District, and said it was “riddled with factual errors,” and contains “inflammatory, incorrect and prejudicial statements masquerading as science and technical analysis.” They also call the monitoring program required by the DOE order “extensive, expensive, excessive, unreasonable and arbitrary.”
City officials say that the stormwater in question is treated with three different processes before it enters the LRIG.
While city officials move forward with the appeal, they said they will do several other things:
• Register the LRIG as an existing underground injection control by Sept. 2, consistent with Section 1 of the Order.
• Initiate and complete a well assessment of the LRIG by Sept. 15.
• Provide DOE with an existing groundwater mounding analysis, which the city has already completed, for the LRIG.
• Suspend discharges to the LRIG during the appeal process.
Officials with the Sammamish Plateau Water & Sewer District – who are filing to intervene in the city’s appeal – have said for many months that they believe the stormwater is contaminating the aquifer with fecal coliform, metals and other pollutants. They have an ongoing action against the city with the Washington State Pollution Control Board, as well as a lawsuit in King County Superior Court relating to a public records disclosure request. The district also is not pumping from its well No. 9, stating that they believe doing so could pull contaminated water from the aquifer to the well, which sits about 600 feet from the LRIG.
“We are taking this important step to protect the interests of our customers, to protect our drinking water and to protect the aquifer itself,” said Ron Little, general manager of the water and sewer district. “We must make sure that the groundwater monitoring plan in the original DOE order is kept intact and enacted by the city.”
In addition to filing to intervene in the appeal, they’re also asking the Pollution Control Hearings Board to combine its consideration of the appeal and the previously existing matter between the city and the district before the same board.
Officials with the DOE say they’re glad the city will be registering the LRIG as an underground injection control and assessing the well, said Larry Altose, spokesman for the DOE. “Suspending the discharge for now into the LRIG should satisfy Ecology’s concerns over suspected impacts of discharging stormwater into the ground near the drinking well for Sammamish Plateau Sewer and Water District,” Altose said.
City officials also made a proposal to DOE officials about how they would like to test and monitor the stormwater. Ecology officials are studying the proposal, Altose said.
“Both the City and Ecology are committed to establishing a testing and monitoring approach that ensures groundwater is not degraded by the runoff from the Issaquah Highlands,” he said.
While city and DOE officials have been meeting to discuss the process and how best to agree on a plan of action, attorneys for the city and the district also have been meeting, Little said.
“Hopefully we will come to some kind of agreement on how to protect the aquifer,” he said.