EPA’s Proposed Storm Water Permit to Protect Puget Sound

Joint Base Lewis-McChord has received discharge permit

Due to its size, population and proximity to Puget Sound, Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) has received a proposed municipal storm water discharge permit from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The permit, when final, is expected to help guide how storm water is managed across nearly 142 sq miles of base property over the next decade and beyond.

Located just south of Tacoma, Wash., JBLM is recognized as the largest military installation on the West Coast. The most recent population estimate for the base was 95,000 people, including military personnel, military dependants residing on base, civilian employees, and visitors.

“JBLM plays a vital role in our national security and the regional economy,” said Mike Bussell, director of EPA’s office of water and watersheds in Seattle. “So we designed this new permit to help them accomplish their mission of providing a safe, healthy community for those who serve our country, while reducing the storm water pollution threat to base streams, lakes and Puget Sound.”

Storm water (surface runoff from rain and snow melt) is recognized as a major source of pollution to the Puget Sound. Commercial and housing development alters the land’s natural ability to absorb and evaporate rainfall. Expanding impervious surfaces (like roads and roofs) then converge with a growing population to produce more vehicle related pollution that settles on those surfaces. When it rains, it all runs off into lakes, rivers, streams and ultimately the Puget Sound.

EPA’s draft municipal separate storm sewer system (MS4) permit for JBLM is the first such proposed permit for a military or other federal facility in western Washington. The draft permit requires specific actions and activities that must be accomplished over at least the next five years to protect local waters.

JBLM has been implementing a storm water program for several years in anticipation of receiving a permit from EPA. Among the new requirements under the proposed permit, the base must control runoff from all construction sites; control runoff from all new development and redevelopment sites; map, inspect, and maintain the storm system, and engage JBLM employees and the community about preventing pollutants in storm water runoff.


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