New wastewater-disposal regulations imposed by the Washington Department of Ecology will collectively cost 68 of the state’s larger wineries more than $200,000 the first year, under a department proposal.
Beginning July 1, the wineries must obtain permits to use wastewater on land or discharge to most sewer plants. Ecology can’t cite any case of a winery polluting groundwater, but the agency says water laced with cleansers, stems, leaves and wine sediment has the potential to pollute.
Wineries that produce fewer than 17,835 gallons of wine and juice a year are exempt from the rules. Wineries that discharge wastewater to one of about 20 sewer plants in the state equipped to treat industrial waste also are exempt. Washington has more than 900 wineries.
Ecology adopted the rules last May, but delayed implementing them to give wineries time to prepare and for the department to decide how much permits will cost.
Ecology anticipates making a formal proposal in March, but has given wineries two options to mull.
One option would assign the 68 wineries into seven categories. At the top end, four wineries that produce more 1.2 million gallons of wine and juice a year would pay $25,786. At the bottom end, 16 wineries that produce fewer than 25,000 gallons but are above the exemption threshold would pay $383.
The second option would divide the wineries into 10 categories. The three largest wineries, which each produce more than 2 million gallons, would pay $33,196. The 16 smallest wineries would pay $296.
The fees will raise about $211,000 the first year, according to Ecology. The permits are good for one year and will increase with inflation. According to a department fact sheet, most fees rise by 4 to 5 percent a year.
The permits will set rules for irrigating with water that has been used to clean bottles, tanks, barrels and other equipment. The rules also regulate storage ponds and watering dusty roads.
Wineries can be exempted from the rules by putting wastewater in a storage tank and having it hauled to a treatment plant. Another way is to put wastewater in a double-lined lagoon to evaporate. The lagoon must have a leak-detection system.
A winery can be fined up to $10,000 a day for violating its permit.