Stormwater & Wastewater

The University has established programs and procedures in place designed to protect the environment.  

EH&S has primary responsibility for providing guidelines regarding water, soil and air pollution prevention in compliance with applicable federal, state and local regulations. EH&S acts as the UW’s liaison with regulatory agencies.

We have many permits and guidelines in place to ensure that University activities support environmental protection and regulatory compliance with respect to stormwater, wastewater, air quality and hazardous materials.

Stormwater

Stormwater is water from storm events, either rain or snowmelt, that flows over the ground and enters the nearest surface water body. On campus, stormwater falls on buildings, roads, parking lots, sidewalks, loading docks and landscaped areas. Some of it soaks into the ground, but most of it flows to the nearest storm drain. Runoff may contain high levels of contaminants such as suspended sediment, nutrients, heavy metals, pathogens, toxins, oxygen-demanding substances and trash. Urban storm water runoff has been identified as a major problem for water quality nationwide.

Storm drains on the Seattle campus and at UW Bothell drain directly into Portage Bay and Lake Washington. Storm drains at UW Tacoma drain directly into the Puyallup River, a salmon corridor. Storm drains marked with the words "DUMP NO WASTE - DRAINS TO LAKE" and a picture of a fish indicate that drainage goes directly into a salmon corridor.

The UW has established Stormwater Management Programs to manage separate storm drainage systems across jurisdictions. The programs are designed and implemented to reduce the discharge of pollutants from the stormwater system to the maximum extent practicable to protect water quality. Students, staff, faculty and the community are welcome to provide suggestions for these programs, as the stormwater plans are updated annually. The Operations and Maintenance Plan details procedures for protecting storm water quality.

Construction projects must minimize storm water pollution. The biggest pollution concerns for construction projects are settleable solids (mainly sediment) and pH. Temporary construction permits should be expected. Depending on the size of the project, permanent storm water detention or treatment may be required.

If you have any comments, suggestions or questions on these programs or stormwater management at the UW, please email chmwaste@uw.edu or call 206.616.5835.

Read the annual stormwater reports:

Wastewater

All wastewater discharged to the sanitary sewer system must comply with local, state and federal standards. Rules are designed to protect surface waters, health and safety in the treatment works, and to maintain the quality of biosolids at wastewater treatment plants.  

An industrial wastewater discharge permit was recently issued for the UW. Our permit includes King County local sewer limits and best management practices available to all operations on the Seattle campus that generate wastewater.

The best management practices include chemical waste management under the UW Treatment by Generator Program. Water from these process wastes can be treated and discharged to the sanitary sewer. These activities occur at UW research and academic laboratories, health care facilities, animal care facilities and the medical centers. We have also incorporated best management practices from the King County Local Hazardous Waste Management Program Laboratory Waste Management Guide.

Other permitted discharges are from the following sources:

  • Shops and maintenance facilities
  • Compost leachate and contaminated stormwater
  • Contaminated groundwater from power plant
  • Miscellaneous oil/water separators
  • Fountain draining and cleaning
  • Pressure washing
  • Parking lot and roadway sweeping and cleaning

All wastes discharged to the sanitary sewer system must comply with permit limits.

If you are outside King County (Tacoma, Pack Forest and Friday Harbor), you are not allowed to pour any chemicals down the drain without explicit permission. Local sewer limits will vary, depending on the location or activity, and must be approved on a case-by-case basis.

Construction, alterations and maintenance projects may also generate wastewater that must be disposed of properly. Lead, asbestos and other hazardous materials may cause the wash water to exceed and violate sewer discharge limits. If hazardous materials could be in your wash water, you must collect samples and have them tested. If the water violates local sewer discharge limits and cannot be treated, then it must be disposed of as a dangerous waste. Please contact EH&S with questions at 206.616.5835 or email chmwaste@uw.edu.

What you can do

  • If you see a spill on campus and it looks like it will reach a storm drain, call EH&S at 206.543.0467.
  • If you see the spill after hours, call 911.

EH&S appreciates any help with identifying problems. Your report can be anonymous.

Services available

EH&S provides the following services:

  • Guidance, consultation, regulatory oversight, and assistance with environmental quality compliance and permits
  • Assistance with managing wastewater discharges and complying with the UW Wastewater Discharge Permit
  • Assistance with protecting stormwater and complying with the UW Stormwater Management Program
  • Assistance with identifying, managing, and disposing of PCB contaminated waste