Sometimes Puget Sound needs a watchdog, and we can’t always rely on government to be there. Government and enforcement agencies are often understaffed and underfunded, and citizens can help leverage resources and provide community oversight. Soundkeeper conducts regular on-the-water pollution patrols using a variety of watercraft, including kayaks and the Soundkeeper boat, and a network of trained Soundkeeper Volunteers, looking for illegal discharges and other evidence of pollution.
Our goal is to stop pollution before it enters the Sound.
Through our Soundkeeper Volunteer Program we train interested and motivated volunteers to monitor waterways in their community.
While on patrol, we look for unusual discharges from pipes, industrial and construction sites and vessels and evidence of pollution in the waterway (surface sheens/ discoloration, submerged debris, etc).
Staff and volunteers also check for the use of Best Management Practices at facilities. For example:
- shipyards must use tarps while painting
- businesses must take measures to prevent runoff of oil and other hazardous materials into the Sound.
We also record wildlife sightings: raptors, nests, dead fish or other dead wildlife.
When staff or volunteers spot oil, fuel, or diesel sheens, or see businesses violating Best Management Practices, these violations are reported to the Department of Ecology, US Coast Guard, or Department of Fish & Wildlife.
Through active monitoring, and with the help of volunteer and citizen reports, Soundkeeper identifies potential pollution problems within the Puget Sound basin.
Resolution of pollution problems is sought through negotiation and, if necessary, legal action to defend the health of Puget Sound.
Upholding Pollution Laws for a Cleaner Sound
Puget Soundkeeper Alliance enforces the Clean Water Act through citizen lawsuits against the most egregious violators. Our goal is to achieve negotiated settlements that bring polluters into compliance with the law and the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES). As a result of Soundkeeper’s legal victories, over $5.16 million in mitigation fees have been directed to local environmental groups to fund environmental benefit projects and help repair damage done to the Sound, and an average of 124 million gallons of industrial stormwater are controlled per year. The Clean Water Act also provides for recovery of reasonable attorneys’ fees. However, Soundkeeper does not financially benefit from these settlements.
The Foundation: Federal Law
The Clean Water Act (CWA) of 1972 is the legal framework. The objective of the CWA “is to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation’s waters.” Learn more about the Clean Water Act.
The Strategy: Citizen Lawsuits & Permit Reviews
The Citizen Lawsuit Provision of the Clean Water Act empowers Puget Soundkeeper Alliance and any citizen with “standing” to enforce the law to make polluters protect water quality.
The Clean Water Act included the creation of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES), which requires pollution discharges to be authorized by a permit. Soundkeeper works to make sure those permits are based on the best information available about how to protect our shared waters.
If you see pollution, report it! You can dramatically increase response time and cleanup success by alerting the appropriate people when there is pollution entering the water. Be prepared to provide the following information: reporting party, contact phone #, material, concentration, quantity, location, company name, resource damage and clean-up status.
Puget Soundkeeper Alliance Pollution Hotline
Our number is monitored during regular office hours. To report pollution call 1.800.42.PUGET. You can also use our online reporting form.
24 Hour Numbers
WA Department of Ecology- Pollution Reports
Northwest (King to Whatcom Counties & Kitsap to San Juan):
Southwest (Pierce to Thurston and Olympic Peninsula)
Oil Spills and Environmental Emergencies
National Response Center (NRC): 1-800 424-8802
Coast Guard: (206) 217-6232
Other Important Numbers
Marine Mammal Strandings: 1-800-853-1964
Whale Sightings: 1-800-562-8832