Edmonds, Woodway residents form nonprofit Edmonds Environmental Council

A group of Edmonds and Woodway residents Tuesday announced the formation of the nonprofit Edmonds Environmental Council (EEC), which in its first action is challenging the City of Edmonds Critical Aquifer Recharge Area (CARA) regulation approved by the Edmonds City Council in May.

“Despite months of community comments and concerns to the city about the risks of PFAS (per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances) into the Olympic View Water District’s drinking water aquifer, the city still adopted a regulation that will allow stormwater polluted with PFAS to be infiltrated directly into the Deer Creek drinking water aquifer,” the EEC said in a news release announcing the group’s formation and legal action.

In its announcement, the EEC said that “because of risk of contaminated drinking water in Woodway and south Edmonds,” it has obtained legal services and filed an appeal (called a “Petition for Review”) July 9 with Washington State’s Growth Management Hearings Board (GMHB). “The GMHB legal process includes initial settlement discussions (i.e., change the regulation to fully protect drinking water aquifer), and the EEC hopes the mayor will agree to settlement to avoid a drawn-out legal process that will cost the city undetermined attorney fees and staff time, and confound the City’s current budget shortfalls,” the announcement said.

The Edmonds Environmental Council’s Board of Directors include former Edmonds City Councilmember Diane Buckshnis and current Town of Woodway Councilmember John Brock, along with Joe Scordino, Theresa Hollis, Clinton Wright, Dianna Maish and Ken Reidy.

The council’s May vote on the CARA ordinance came after several residents asked the city council to instead approve an earlier proposal — from 2023 — that they said would be a more cautious approach to the issue until more is known about how to best treat PFAS. They are also called “forever chemicals” because of how long they take to break down in the environment and people’s bodies. According to this Washington State Standard report, PFAS chemicals have been used since the 1940s to manufacture industrial and commercial products, including goods like nonstick cookware, carpets, and raincoats. They’ve also been a common ingredient in firefighting foam used at sites like military bases, airports, and refineries.

CARAs are treated as critical areas under the state’s Growth Management Act. When city code was last updated in 2016, it stated that no areas meeting criteria for CARAs existed in the city. However, in 2022, Edmonds was alerted to two CARAs in the city’s jurisdiction when the OVWSD appealed the city’s SEPA (State Environmental Policy Act) Determination of Nonsignificance for a stormwater code update. OVWSD withdrew its appeal of the stormater code when presented with additional information provided by city staff, and staff committed to updating city code to reflect the presence of possible CARAs within city boundaries. The two drinking water wells are Deer Creek Springs near the Town of Woodway and at 228th Street Southwest — both supplement the drinking water that Olympic View purchases from the City of Seattle.

In its announcement, the Edmonds Environmental Council said it is committed to “public service, education and civic engagement to preserve, protect, restore and enhance the natural and human environment in Edmonds and adjacent cities and unincorporated areas.”

The news release also said:

This community 501(c)(3) organization was formed in response to the growing need for “informed” voices to help educate residents and city officials on the perils of ignoring the human and natural environment as local governments consider permitting increased housing and development. This is of special concern in waterfront communities like Edmonds and Woodway whose landscape can be permanently damaged by poorly regulated development. We already have serious stormwater damage to salmon habitat from past development in Perrinville and Shell Creek watersheds that has yet to be resolved.

One of the EEC’s priorities is addressing stormwater runoff that comes with new development as well as lingering effects from over-development in the past. Stormwater flows not only damage our landscape and creeks, but they carry pollutants that alter the quality of water in our creeks, natural springs, and aquifers. These stormwater pollutants include carcinogenic petroleum compounds and hazardous ‘forever chemicals’ that don’t breakdown naturally. New scientific information from the federal government indicates that one of these ‘forever chemicals’ (known as PFAS), if found above trace levels in drinking water, can cause severe human health problems.

Other issues that the EEC will be addressing include 1) the environmental and human impacts of the housing density initiatives and whether the best available science, including local knowledge, is used in updating the City’s Comprehensive Plan; 2) the City’s adherence to the State Environmental Protection Act (SEPA) on all actions; 3) the cleanup of the old Unocal property to ensure it is indeed for salmon recovery and nearshore restoration; 4) restoration of natural areas such as the Edmonds Marsh; 5) resolving habitat problems in local creeks; and 6) other community issues identified by EEC Members.

People interested in joining the EEC and/or making donations can email Edmonds.Envir.Council@gmail.com for information and/or a membership application. Membership will include participation in community topic-specific committees.

 

  1. It’s a pity that local residents have to go to this extent to get City Administration to actually “listen” to the citizens affected by the City’s actions.

    Negative effects on drinking water and human health should be at the top of the list of concerns that guide the City in its decision-making.

    I hope the City quickly agrees to change the regulation and saves all the legal expenses of fighting a battle they should never have gotten into since it affects the health of Edmonds, Woodway, and Esperance residents who drink water from Olympic View Water District.

  2. How sad it is that it’s come down to this. A group of concerned citizens, having exhausted all their individual options to voice their legitimate concerns about the health and safety of our drinking water have banded together to form the EEC. Pitting themselves against our own city government on our behalf. They deserve our thanks.

    I concur with their concerns and the misguided actions taken by the administration and City Council. It appears that the city and Council acted based on legal advice rather than scientific evidence in crafting the code. Legal advice that persuaded the Planning Board to reverse their original recommendation to safeguard the aquifer. They chose to protect development rights over safe drinking water. It doesn’t get any worse than that. Shameful.

    Please join me in contributing to the EEC. This grass roots effort deserves our support since we seem to not receive any from those who were elected to serve and protect us.

    City hall, wake up!

  3. In another couple of days, I could donate my copy of the book “Exposure”, written by Robert Bilott (the real life attorney portrayed in the movie Dark Waters), though you could probably get it faster from Amazon for less than $15. The subtitle is “poisoned water, corporate greed, and one lawyer’s twenty-year battle against DuPont.” I have noticed the bit where the author/attorney thanks all the others, including citizens’ groups, “who have helped alert the public to the global health threat presented.”

  4. As a city we have this wonderful gift of still certified pure drinking water right under our feet and we let the appointed, not elected, City Planning Dept. and City Attorney talk our City Council into a highly possible polluting act in the interest of promoting unneeded and mostly unwanted over development being touted by state ideologues and the building industry. That’s why I’m joining with others in being a Board Member of this new organization. Enough is Enough. Come on Mayor Rosen, urge the Council and YOUR Planning Dept. to reverse this one for the health and welfare of everyone so we don’t waste a bunch of money on paying attorneys. Be the Mayor for all that you claimed you would be. This is for everyone who appreciates a glass of cold pure drinking water which is virtually all of us. Can’t always have a beer you know, as good as that sounds.

  5. I am a board member of the citizen activist group named Edmonds Environmental Council, along with Clint and Joe who have commented above. But you will not be getting my typical stream of MEN comments and city council meeting public comments on this topic of the CARA code because we have taken legal action. There’s established practices on communicating in public about legal actions. I encourage all residents to learn about your rights to appeal certain land use regulations to the Growth Management Act Hearings Board. Read up on it here:
    https://eluho.wa.gov/boards/growth-management-hearings-board. My folksy description is this board is where the State of Washington has said ” Residents – we know your city sometimes messes up, and we know sometimes a city has to make a close call in it’s regulations decisions. But if you believe a regulation in your City violates the law in Washington that protects the environment, bring your case to us and you will be heard. ”

    Editor – thanks for covering this news story. There will be more news to come. The very existence of the local press is important these days. And it was great to see you as Grand Marshall in the parade last week. It’s evidence of how much Edmonds values their local press.

  6. Has the Olympic Water and Sewer District or Seattle City Water taken any action against the City of Edmonds in regard to this alleged pollution of the drinking water that is under their control? If not, why not? It would seem to me they are responsible for delivering clean water to their customers. Has this new organization spoken to them about this problem?

    1. OVSW’s Director has commented many times regarding the latest code deficiency. In 2021 Council received a strongly worded resolution from their Commissioners to craft a CARA code – that never happened.

      The City Council is responsible for protecting the citizen when it comes to health and safe drinking water.

      Mayor Rosen is expected to have a staff that provides best available science when re-crafting critical area codes! The attorney should not use bad law or using a “takings” example as our code addresses disputes and human health necessities.

      Mayor Rosen is following Nelson’s playbook of leaving the environmental aspects and codes following zoning projections.

      Where is the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) needed for the comprehensive plan update?

      The EIS should have been done over two years ago so that consultants with the environmental knowledge can provide three projected scenarios for density suggestions. The Deer Creek Watershed needs to be protected as well as those recharge areas.

      In sum, this Appeal process will be lengthy and the EEC has a myriad of documents supporting our “human health” position. Attorney costs could be minimal if Council uses the best available science for protecting human health and makes one code change to prohibit these UIC shallow wells.

      Once the EIS is completed and regional growth models are included – the Council may find additional support for the prohibition.

  7. In response to Tom Mesaros’s question, Olympic View Water District (OVWD) provided multiple comments and warnings to the City’s Planning Dept., the Planning Board, and the City Council on why the “Best Available Science” does NOT support putting UIC wells over the Deer Creek aquifer which provides drinking water to south Edmonds and Woodway. It was OVWD that provided the report that showed stormwater in Edmonds had been found to have 8 times the new federal limit of PFAS in drinking water.

    The EEC had numerous meetings with OVWD and relied on the experts in OVWD to develop their Appeal of the City’s decision.

    1. Joe, I’m not privy to the discussions with OVWD. However, like Mr. Mesaros, it’s not clear to me why OVWD hasn’t taken legal action about this issue and is instead relying on a volunteer citizen group to do so. Logically, it would appear OVWD has a duty to ensure its customers receive clean, safe drinking water. If they have solid facts showing Edmonds’ decision to allow injection wells in CARAs will pollute aquifers, OVWD should pursue all avenues to reverse that decision.

  8. And there you have it. Thank you to the EEC. Thank you, John Brock and Diane and all of the rest, of you who didn’t stop trying to save our safe drinking water and calling attention to the problems with over development. I would think our mayor should consider what is being asked of him. The consequences of not doing something will plague Edmonds and other communities throughout our state forever.

  9. Immense respect is due to the directors who established the EEC. They embody the adage, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going,” especially in their efforts to safeguard the integrity of the Edmonds aquifer water supply.

  10. As a Board Member my individual response is limited to speaking as to our cause which is simply the prevention of further degradation of our local environmental resources and especially (but not limited to) our water sheds, based on (B)est (A)vailable (S)cience. BAS is a legal concept that requires legal interpretation, hence our legal action regarding our CARAs. We are doing this as concerned citizens for the environment. Any other assertions or implications about our actions or motivations can and should be considered just a matter of opinion.

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