Earlier this week beat reporter Erik Smith, with Washington State Wire , gave credit to a Washington Policy Center report for highlighting a major flaw in the state’s science used to support the protection and restoration of the Puget Sound.
In his investigative report , on the state’s Department of Ecology’s toxic loading reports, Smith wrote:
“… Department of Ecology made embarrassing mistakes in preliminary studies back in 2007 and 2008, wildly overestimating the amount of oil that reaches the sound in stormwater…. The funny thing about the story is that the entire debate in last year’s Legislature played out after the Department of Ecology acknowledged the serious problems with its own studies. Somehow the scientific world never communicated with the political one, and so the bare-knuckle lobbying of 2010 continued until almost the final day of the session. The facts were available the entire time, but the only public exposure they received was a mention in a few paragraphs toward the bottom of a Washington Policy Center “legislative memo” in February of that year.”
And here is the excerpt from our Legislative Memo  that Smith references:
“A critical review from an independent research firm found significant errors in Ecology’s estimates of pollutants entering the Puget Sound as a result of stormwater. In December 2009, Ecology released a memorandum correcting the errors, which found its stormwater report:
‘“…was fundamentally flawed in assuming a much higher average annual hydrologic yield from land uses and watersheds with more impervious area. In general, the improved hydrologic analysis method resulted in absolute toxic chemical loading estimates that are approximately 3 times lower than the loading estimates provided in the phase 2 study.”’
In other words, the claim that stormwater delivered 52 million pounds of pollutants to the Puget Sound was in error. In fact, the corrected numbers show that only about 14 million pounds, or 6,500 tons, of pollutants per year enter the Sound via stormwater, a much lower amount than Ecology officials first reported to the public.”
Smith’s article, which is timely given that Ecology will release the final report on toxic loadings any day now, highlights a fundamental problem of putting politics ahead of the science.
We continue to follow and participate in state's process of protecting and restoring the Puget Sound to ensure that common sense approaches are followed and that the good science is applied correctly.