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Stormwater treatment facility cleans runoff in Tacoma's Point Defiance

As Western Washington prepares for more heavy rain, Tacoma is working to clean stormwater as it re-enters Puget Sound.

TACOMA, Wash. — Heavy rains may keep some people inside, but for Dana de Leon, principal engineer for the City of Tacoma, this is perfect weather.

“It’s stormwater and I love it,” she said as she showcased Tacoma’s work in cleaning up stormwater before it enters back into Puget Sound.

In 2015, the city began work on a Stormwater Treatment Facility right at the entrance of Point Defiance Park.

The facility is made up of six cascading pools that send water through troughs and treatment cells before sending as much as eight million gallons of treated water back into Puget Sound.

It’s vital that this work is done to undo decades of harm to the environment, de Leon said.

“We’ve had over a hundred years of industrializing Puget Sound, and it’s basically left some areas dead, and has run critters out,” de Leon said. “So a part of this is now over time, with the Clean Water Act, and funding for facilities such as this, we’re cleaning the water up now and we can revitalize the Puget Sound.”

But climate change could bring a new challenge to the clean-up efforts.

The region could see more intense rainfall in the future, de Leon said, which may wash more pollutants off surfaces and send them into stormwater, and ultimately into Puget Sound.

This is why Tacoma needs more facilities like this, de Leon said.

Otherwise, the entire ecosystem could be harmed.

“We might kill more salmon, and if we kill our salmon, then we might lose our southern resident orcas, and we don’t want to do that,” she said. “We want to clean this water, preserve the salmon, preserve the whole food chain for the Puget Sound.”

The Puget Sound Regional Council says it has plans to help get other treatment facilities set up across the region, including Kirkland, Kitsap County, and Puyallup.

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