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SEATTLE-A neighborhood group has challenged a water quality permit issued last week by the Department of Ecology. The permit, one of the last remaining hurdles toward the construction of a third runway at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, has formally been appealed to the Pollution Control Hearings Board.

The Airport Communities Coalition, which has battled airport expansion for years, has accused the DOE of bowing to political pressure. Bob Sheckler, ACC chairman, said the DOE based its decision to issue the permit on politics rather than science.

“This is wrong, and we will do everything in our power to restore integrity to the environmental decision-making process,” Sheckler says.

The port wants to build an 8,500-foot runway west of SeaTac’s existing runways by building up the airport’s property with more than 17 million cubic yards of dirt. Wetlands and three streams with fish are in the vicinity.

According to the DOE permit in question, the port will protect and restore nearby wetlands, as well as manage stormwater to avoid polluting three salmon-bearing creeks contiguous to the runway site. The port also will create a 60-acre wetland on property it owns along the Green River near Auburn.

The ACC appeal cites inappropriate and illegal reliance on promises from the Port to provide essential data, significant information gaps in the Port’s application, reliance on post-approval monitoring to determine the extent of harm to the environment and a lack of reasonable assurance that the project will not violate state water quality standards.

The ACC has also petitioned the hearings board for a stay of the DOE permit pending a decision of the appeal citing the irreversible filling of wetlands, enormous effects on water quality and the overwhelming scale of the project.

A federal permit from the Army Corps of Engineers remains in the works and also must be issued before construction could begin.

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