Walla Walla County residents to see stormwater fee

An extra $36 will be charged annually for all residential parcels in the unincorporated parts of Walla Walla County


WALLA WALLA -- News flash: There is no way to make "National Pollutant Discharge Eliminations System stormwater permit" sound sexy.

But that's why county residents are going to be getting a new bill in the mail soon.

The fee, $36 a year for all residential parcels, will be used to manage rain and snow melt to make sure only water goes down storm drains. Businesses, industries, farms and others will be charged based on the amount of impervious area, such as asphalt lots, that are on the property.

The fee notices should begin arriving in mailboxes in the next few weeks, said Joy Bader, county stormwater program manager. Properties in incorporated areas, such as Walla Walla and College Place, are not subject to the fee.

The fee is being levied because although the state Department of Ecology requires Walla Walla County to regulate stormwater, it does not provide any long-term funding, Bader said.

The state regulations stem from the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Phase II permit the county has operated under since 2007. Along with Walla Walla County, seven other counties and 18 cities in Eastern Washington fall under the permit's jurisdiction.

The permit requires the county to take new measures to improve the quality of the stormwater that discharges to creeks, rivers, and groundwater. If those measures aren't taken, state and federal penalties for non-compliance can exceed $10,000 per day, Bader said.

In order to comply with the requirements, Walla Walla County commissioners adopted a new ordinance in November 2009 to create a utility for stormwater management. The stormwater utility fee rates were set in July 2010 by a resolution approved by county commissioners.

The new department, which is under the county Public Works Department, did not require hiring any additional people, Public Works Director Randy Glaeser said.

In a release, Bader noted stormwater runoff is the largest remaining source of water pollution to the waterways of the U.S..

Unlike sewage, which is collected and treated at a wastewater treatment plant, anything that flows into a storm drain empties directly into the nearest stream or creek or infiltrates to groundwater without any treatment.

By law, the fees may only be used for stormwater management, Bader said. The money will fund improved flood management, stormwater system maintenance and regulatory compliance.

Andy Porter can be reached at andyporter@wwub.com or 526-8318. Check out his blog at blogs.ublabs.org/randomthoughts.


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