Regulations will protect Issaquah’s drinking water

November 11, 2008

By Shannon Lefley

Issaquah residents can rest assured their water, which comes mainly from underwater wells located near downtown, is safe to drink. A plan to keep hazardous material from contaminating the aquifer, which began last year, is well under way.

The city’s Public Works Engineering Department has developed a program that will implement the Critical Aquifer Recharge Area rules adopted by the City Council in late 2007.

“This is the work of a number of years of studies, and it’s finally being implemented,” said Kelly Ritland, Public Works senior water resources engineer.

Redmond and Renton have already implemented similar plans to protect their underground aquifers.

CARA regulations apply to the downtown area that overlies the well-head protection area. It is roughly defined as south of Interstate 90, east of Issaquah Creek, north of the high school stadium and west of the Lake Tradition Plateau. This area has been named the CARA class 1 and 2 area. Because of its location, the underground water is highly susceptible to pollution. 

All of the measures are preventative and there has been no evidence that the water has been contaminated already, according to city officials. 

“The program gives the city the ability to evaluate the risk level of businesses that have hazardous material on site,” said Dana Zlateff, Public Works environmental science associate.

“The program was designed to protect the water supply by controlling hazardous substances at the surface,” Ritland said. 

Businesses are being targeted because they often work with material that can be harmful. Materials such as solvents, oil, pesticides, industrial chemicals and fertilizers are all potential threats to the environment if handled carelessly or stored improperly. 

A representative from the department, as well as an expert from Farallon Consulting, an environmental consulting firm, are visiting businesses in the area to identify which ones will be subject to the CARA regulations. A preliminary list has identified more than 250 businesses that may qualify, but Ritland said he believes only about 100 will end up on the final list. 

The city hopes to have all businesses identified and through the inventory phase, and into the management phase by next year.

Businesses subject to CARA regulations will be required to maintain an inventory of hazardous materials and have a spill response plan. Hazardous materials must be stored properly and records of hazardous waste disposal must also be maintained.

“We’re educating right now, because the program is just starting up,” Zlateff said. “We’re letting them know what’s required, and then later, we can come back and make sure that the regulations are being followed.”

The city will coordinate with Eastside Fire & Rescue for follow-up visits to review permits and business licenses, and to complete physical site inspections. 

Most changes businesses will need to make are minimal, Ritland said.

“These things are not really hard for them to do, and when they look back and reflect, they probably should have been doing this stuff already anyway,” he said.

 

Correction

A Nov. 5 story about the city’s proposed tree protection regulations gave the wrong dates for City Council action on them. The Land Use Committee will review the measure, Agenda Bill 5904, on Dec. 2. It will appear before the full council Dec. 15. 

 

Shannon Lefley is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory.

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