Everyone has a right to clean water. But studies across the country show that our waterways are seriously polluted with heavy metals, pesticides and other toxics. The Clean Water Act requires states to set water quality standards to keep these pollutants out of our water and out of our fish, and sets the bar for protecting our lakes, rivers and estuaries. Soundkeeper advocates for strong water quality standards in Washington State and also works to influence national policy that affects our local waterways.
Polluted stormwater runoff is the number one source of toxic pollution to Puget Sound and surrounding waterways. Stormwater washes pollutants off roadways, rooftops and other hard surfaces and carries a toxic cocktail directly into nearby streams and the Sound. Studies have shown that the pollutants in stormwater runoff can kill coho salmon in as little as three hours, and although many solutions exist, implementation is often a struggle. Soundkeeper works to enforce pollution permits for local businesses and influence the limits imposed by those permits to keep waterways clean and protected, as well as providing resources and support for citizens intent on improving their individual footprint.
Agriculture is the biggest source of pollution to waterways nationwide. As the population has grown, agricultural operations must pack more and more livestock into smaller and smaller spaces to meet demands for meat and dairy, and the resulting volume of raw manure far exceeds current containment and treatment capacity. Fecal coliform from agricultural pollution leads to the closure of shellfish beds, contamination of drinking water, and unsafe conditions for swimming or fishing. Soundkeeper is engaged in advocacy and policy work with a number of partners to improve regulation of agricultural pollution.
Population growth in the Puget Sound area has put immense pressure on wastewater treatment systems. Many contaminants from industrial processes make their way into the wastewater and are discharged directly to waterways, and heavy rains cause combined sewer systems to overflow, dumping raw sewage into rivers, lakes and the Sound. Soundkeeper is dedicated to improving regulations and infrastructure to keep wastewater contamination from destroying habitat and waterways.
In recent years the Northwest has seen dramatic growth in proposed fossil fuel projects and shipping of crude oil and coal by rail. Oil-by-rail in all of North America increased 4,000 percent between 2010 and 2015. With that increase, we have also seen more derailments, explosions and oil spills than ever before. Soundkeeper is deeply involved in policy and advocacy work to protect Puget Sound communities from these disasters.
Marine debris includes human-made trash, litter, discarded equipment and other solid material that enters our oceans and waterways and ends up floating out to sea or fouling our beaches and shorelines. Ninety percent of marine debris is plastic, which breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces, accumulates pollutants and ends up in wildlife and in the food we eat. Soundkeeper holds cleanups around the Puget Sound region to get trash off our shorelines and out of our waterways, and works to support policies that can move us towards more responsible consumption habits.
Soundkeeper is committed to working with the maritime industry and the marine community to protect Puget Sound waters. Through the Clean Marina Washington program, Soundkeeper and partners have incentivized best practices for local marinas, focusing on oil spill prevention, sewage management and disposal, environmentally friendly boat maintenance, hazardous waste management and recycling. Currently there are 70 certified Clean Marinas throughout Washington State, and that number continues to grow.
Part of protecting and preserving our waterways is making sure pollution from former eras is removed safely. Soundkeeper has been deeply involved in the process of cleaning up the Lower Duwamish River, which was declared a federal Superfund site in 2001, and monitors the progress of other cleanups and priority areas throughout Puget Sound.