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BIAW files brief to protect homeowners from higher wastewater treatment costs

April 15, 2024

The Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW) recently filed a brief to protect homeowners from higher wastewater treatment costs.

The amicus brief BIAW filed with the Washington State Supreme Court supports the City of Tacoma, Birch Bay Water and Sewer District, Kitsap County, Southwest Suburban Sewer District, and Alderwood Water & Wastewater District in a lawsuit challenging the Washington State Department of Ecology (DOE).

In their lawsuit filed in 2021, petitioners argued DOE lacked authority to impose tertiary treatment requirements at wastewater treatment plants (WWTP) without following the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). They also asserted the new directive will be difficult and expensive to implement, resulting in higher costs for homeowners in Washington.

Both the lower court and the Division III Court of Appeals ruled in their favor. The DOE appealed the case to the Supreme Court.

Preventing costly and unnecessary wastewater treatment costs

BIAW filed its amicus brief to educate the court about how the directive will add unnecessary costs to homebuilding.

BIAW directed the court to review its Washington Center for Housing Studies’ Housing Affordability Index. It shows roughly 84% of Washington can’t afford a median-priced home. DOE’s directive on total inorganic nitrogen (TIN) caps at WWTPs could make it nearly impossible for people to own or build homes in Washington.

The City of Tacoma estimates the costs to upgrade facilities for nutrient removal could be as high as $1.314 billion.

If the department wins its appeal, BIAW warns the state will see:

  • Increased housing costs for homeowners and renters, potentially adding $500 to monthly sewer bills; and
  • Significant delays and costs for building permits, putting affordable housing projects in limbo.

Rulemaking procedures provide access and transparency

BIAW argues the APA provides necessary procedures to prevent such injustices. Allowing agencies like Ecology to bypass APA rules will harm citizens’ access to affordable housing and hinder public participation.

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