New permit for wineries helps protect water quality

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OLYMPIA — Washington’s wineries and the Department of Ecology have collaborated to develop the first statewide water quality permit that will help the industry prevent pollution and protect water quality.

The new Winery General Permit adopted this week establishes practices that help wineries manage their wastewater. The general permit will benefit both the state and permit holders by providing broad, efficient, and consistent coverage for wineries across the state. The permit is scheduled to take effect July 1, 2019. The delayed start gives winemakers time to assess their facilities and develop a compliance strategy that best suits their business.

“We worked closely with local winemakers to develop a permit that provides environmental protection in way that lightens the financial and operational hardship on wineries, especially for smaller wineries,” said Heather Bartlett, Ecology Water Quality Program Manager. “Most of Washington’s wineries already have good practices that protect clean water. This permit will continue that standard of eco-friendly wastewater management as this industry rapidly grows.”

Washington is the second largest wine-producing state in the nation. The byproduct of making wine is a corrosive wastewater that, if not properly managed, can damage soil and crops, kill aquatic life, degrade the infrastructure in wastewater treatment plants, and pull metals from the soil into groundwater that can harm people.

Ecology has worked closely with the winemaking community, stakeholders, and public since 2014 to develop this permit. The permit incorporates the best practices from wineries that already successfully manage wastewater, and time-tested practices from California’s regulations. A guiding principle was to provide flexibility for wineries covered under the permit, and provide options for winemakers to comply. This will allow wineries to manage wastewater in the way that best suits their business.

Wineries may need coverage under the permit if they discharge more than 53,505 gallons of wastewater in a calendar year. Specifically, these wineries will need coverage if they discharge winery process wastewater:

• As irrigation to managed vegetation.

• To a lagoon or other liquid storage structure.

• As road dust abatement.

• To a subsurface infiltration system.

• To an infiltration basin.

• To a wastewater treatment plant. 

In the coming year, Ecology will hold workshops to provide guidance to winery representatives about how to apply for coverage, inspect their facilities, document their progress, implement best management practices, and report their monitoring data to the agency. Learn more at Join Ecology’s winery email listserv for updates.

This permit can be appealed to the Washington Pollution Control Hearings Board within 30 days of becoming effective.

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