As state Rep. Peter Abbarno’s bill to redirect RV waste discharge away from local waterways awaits potential future action in the House, his attempt to pass the initiative via an amendment similar to the legislation in a housing bill was shot down this week.
Abbarno’s quest to redirect wastewater is paired with a push to prohibit encampments, including RV encampments, that do not have proper on-site discharge amenities and where human waste has instead been dumped directly into the environment or local waterways.
On the House floor, Abbarno introduced that language as an amendment to House Bill 1220, which directs local jurisdictions to focus on affordable housing, emergency housing, shelters and permanent supportive housing in their comprehensive planning efforts. The legislation would update the Growth Management Act to require jurisdictions to address those housing issues, establish anti-displacement policies and plan with the goal to get and keep individuals housed.
The first-term Republican from Centralia said his amendment “stems from what I believe is a need to protect the environment, protect our drinking water, fish habitat and people who are staying in these emergency shelters.”
Without proper amenities to prevent human waste from getting into Lewis County’s “critical aquifer,” Abbarno said some emergency encampments “should be prohibited.”
Abbarno has pointed specifically to situations like the Mellen Street Park and Ride, where an RV encampment popped up last year. Officials pointed to sanitation issues and residents were ultimately pushed off the property.
Democrat Strom Peterson opposed Abbarno’s amendment on the floor, saying the type of planning the bill directs local jurisdictions to do includes issues like waste discharge.
“That’s really what we’re asking our local cities and municipalities to do,” he said.
Additionally, Peterson said sites like the Mellen Street encampment will hopefully, with the help of HB 1220, “be a way of the past and not a way of the future.”
“I’m disappointed in the vote, but I will continue to work to ensure we can provide better options that prevent contamination of drinking water,” Abbarno said in a press release.
HB 1220 passed from the House and now heads to the Senate.