The Port of Olympia's stormwater management violates the federal Clean Water Act and leads to pollution of lower Budd Inlet, a citizen watchdog group claimed in a lawsuit filed in federal court.
The nonprofit Olympians for Public Accountability charged that port officials have failed to live up to promises to better monitor and treat stormwater from their marine terminal operations.
The lawsuit, filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Tacoma, seeks civil penalties of more than $30,000 per day of violation.
The nonprofit group first threatened to sue the port under the federal Clean Water Act in October 2007. The lawsuit was deferred when the port and the group signed a settlement agreement in 2008 that called on the port to beef up its stormwater-monitoring and pollution-prevention work.
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The latest lawsuit alleges that the port has not complied with the terms and deadlines spelled out in the settlement agreement.
Port officials declined requests to discuss the case Tuesday, issuing only a prepared statement from port Executive Director Ed Galligan.
“We have been working with this group for some time,” he stated. “We believe we are in full compliance and we are quite surprised that they have filed this lawsuit.”
According to claims listed in the lawsuit, the port has:
• Exceeded stormwater limits for zinc, copper, suspended solids, turbidity, dissolved oxygen, pH and biological oxygen demand 14 times in quarterly samples from spring 2007 through spring 2009.
The stormwater enters lower Budd Inlet, which is plagued by low oxygen levels harmful to marine life.
• Failed to use “best management practices” to prevent stormwater pollution.
• Allowed wash water from the Weyerhaeuser log-export operation to mix with stormwater in violation of the port stormwater discharge permit issued by the state Department of Ecology.
Ecology inspector Paul Stasch said he has inspected the port operations twice in the past few weeks, including the Weyerhaeuser log yard, and has seen no mingling of stormwater and wash water.
However, he said there are some concerns about bark from the lot yard washing into Budd Inlet.
“We need to start exploring what we can do better in terms of bark management,” he said.
John Dodge: 360-754-5444