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Ordinance aimed at Oak Harbor drain scofflaws

If a homeowner empties leftover top soil into the street or a business connects their grease trap to a storm drain, they could soon face stricter penalties.

The Oak Harbor City Council introduced a new ordinance which restricts certain materials from entering the storm water drainage system. It also outlines new enforcement.

The list of “illicit discharges” by the Department of Ecology includes drain cleaners, pesticides, dyes, acids, metals and animal carcasses. However, a few items concerned council members, including car washing soaps and heated water.

“Can I still wash my car on the street? Because it would be against this ordinance,” Councilman Danny Paggao asked City Engineer Eric Johnston.

Johnston said he couldn’t see the city cracking down on people for washing cars. And the heated water refers to boiling water, possibly from a hot water heater.

But the city is liable for certain materials that enter the drainage system, including petroleum products that leak out of cars. Instead of asking Oak Harbor to remove the pollutants, the state’s Department of Ecology wants to prevent them at the source.

According to the ordinance, no materials, other than storm water, can be discharged into the drains. If the city receives word of a violation, an employee from public works will investigate.

First-time offenders would receive a written warning and a time period to reach compliance. Repeated or intentional violations could lead to a misdemeanor charge. The new ordinance would also make offenders financially responsible for cleaning up spills.

Councilman Jim Campbell said he is wary of the new ordinance, which he described as an “enforcement nightmare.”

“It could pit neighbor against neighbor,” Campbell said.

However, Johnston said there is flexibility for the city to revise the list of pollutants.

The new ordinance is part of a storm water permit that was issued by the DOE in 2007. It requires that the city undertake a significant number of operational, policy and code changes to eliminate waste and protect water resources.

A public hearing for the ordinance is set for Oct. 6.

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