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Recommendation: 31

Status: Underway

Reduce stormwater threats and accelerate clean-up of toxics that are harmful to orcas.


Action 1

Provide funding to accelerate the clean-up and removal of contaminants that have lingered in Puget Sound (legacy contaminants) and that will have the greatest benefit to Southern Residents.

Action 2

Identify and prioritize toxic hotspots in the stormwater entering Puget Sound for corrections so they can meet current standards.

Action 3

Increase funding for the Stormwater Financial Assistance Program to incentivize immediate and accelerated retrofits and other source control actions.

Action 4

Prioritize and accelerate actions to reduce contaminants in sediment and nearshore areas used by Chinook salmon and the fish they eat.

Implementation Details


  • The Washington Departments of Ecology and Natural Resources immediately should prioritize and accelerate sediment remediation and nearshore restoration and clean-up of hotspots in forage fish and juvenile Chinook rearing habitat in sensitive areas where toxics are known to impact prey survival.
  • All prioritized cleanup actions should ensure “upstream” source control  also is addressed.
  • During the prioritization process, Ecology should coordinate with other agencies such as the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Puget Sound Partnership, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Previously identified hotspots include the Duwamish Estuary and River, Commencement Bay, Hanford Reach, Sinclair and Dyes Inlets, and Lake Union.


  • The Legislature should fund the Department of Ecology in 2019 for a program that provides incentives to accelerate removal of primary legacy sources of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances present in the built environment in central Puget Sound. In Phase 1, Ecology should develop the program to include: (1) prioritizing those legacy chemicals likely to have greatest impact on Southern Residents, (2) coordinating with ongoing programs, (3) gathering stakeholder input, and (4) undertaking targeted communications and outreach. In Phase 2, the incentive program would be implemented.
  • Ecology should reduce stormwater threats in existing hotspots as soon as possible. In 2018-19, Ecology, in consultation with regional experts, should identify toxic stormwater hotspots and prioritize them for source control, retrofits, and/or redevelopment projects to meet today’s standards.
  • Ecology should seek new funding in the 2019 Legislature through the Stormwater Financial Assistance Program to provide incentives for stormwater retrofits and source control to achieve goals faster. Programs such as the Stormwater Financial Assistance Program, retrofits through the Washington Department of Transportation, and federal funding through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund are in place to support this effort but they need substantially increased funding to increase the pace and provide the necessary pollutant removal.

Recent Progress

  • In 2023, the Washington Department of Ecology received $644 million to clean up Superfund sites and support grant programs that would clean up polluted sites and contaminants and reduce toxics getting into waterways from stormwater runoff. The State is funding research and addressing of this issue. Additional funding will be needed to improve the way stormwater filters out toxic chemicals, especially on roads.
  • In 2023, the Department of Natural Resources received $9.6 million to remove derelict structures on the water that impact salmon by degrading water quality and reducing aquatic plants. In 2021, The department received $3 million to remove abandoned vessels from waters. When a vessel sinks or breaks up, fuel, oil, and other hazardous substances can spill into the water. Abandoned vessels endanger salmon habitat and pose navigation risks.
  • A big focus in Washington is reducing stormwater runoff impacts to waterways. Many contaminants enter the water when rainwater carries them to rivers, which in turn carry them to the ocean and Puget Sound. It is now known that tire dust contains a chemical that is toxic to coho salmon.
  • In 2020, Washington State settled a lawsuit with Monsanto for $95 million for harm to state resources caused by polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) contamination
  • The Department of Transportation will contribute more than $1 million to creosote removal in Bainbridge and Eagle Harbor. Creosote is a wood preservative that poses serious health risks to humans, wildlife, and natural habitats. The department also will provide $7.5 million to  upgrade stormwater systems in Puget Sound.

More details may be found in the progress reports in the resources library.