An environmental group with ties to Olympia says it will sue the Port of Olympia for alleged violations of the Clean Water Act if the group and port can’t come to an agreement in the next 60 days.
Waste Action Project of Covington, working with a Seattle law firm, sent a letter to the port earlier this month outlining concerns and allegations about the port’s marine terminal.
“The Port of Olympia has violated and continues to violate the Clean Water Act and the terms and conditions of (two stormwater permits) with respect to operations of, and discharges of stormwater and pollutants, including unpermitted discharges,” the letter reads.
Additional allegations are, according to the letter: stormwater pollution plan violations, monitoring and reporting violations, corrective action violations, illicit and prohibited discharges, violations of recordkeeping requirements.
The group also says in its letter the port faces penalties of as much as $37,500 per day for each violation committed through Nov. 2, 2015, and as much as $51,570 per day for each violation committed afterward.
The industrial stormwater permits issued to the port by the state Department of Ecology took effect in 2010 and 2015.
The port’s attorney, Heather Burgess, on Monday deferred to port Executive Director Ed Galligan for official comment.
“We do not comment on threat to sue or lawsuits,” Galligan said.
Greg Wingard , Waste Action Project executive director, said Monday that he has yet to meet with port officials, but they have acknowledged they received the letter.
Waste Action Project is not new to the port, he said. Working with a group called Olympians for Public Accountability, the group sued the port before the Weyerhaeuser log operations relocated to the port’s marine terminal in the early 2000s, and again after the operations were in place. Terms of the agreement after the first lawsuit were not immediately clear, but the second suit led the port to build a stormwater treatment plant on the marine terminal.
Wingard said that some members of Olympians for Public Accountability are members of Waste Action Project. However, if the letter of intent becomes a lawsuit, Waste Action Project would be the plaintiff, not OPA, he said.
The port also agreed to spend $120,000 toward a project to restore Mission Creek in lower Budd Inlet as a result of the second suit, according to Olympian archives.
The $11.5 million stormwater treatment plant came online in 2014, but experienced some hiccups in the early days of its operation, including a hydrogen peroxide spill at the marine terminal that led to evacuation of the port’s administrative offices and businesses in the area. The chemical is used to reintroduce oxygen into the stormwater before it is released, because Budd Inlet is considered an oxygen-starved body of water.
Wingard said his group sued the Port of Seattle several times over Clean Water Act violations before the port took corrective action, and the Port of Olympa may require the same approach.
“We’re not going to stand here and watch it happen,” he said about further alleged pollution at the marine terminal. “The port can step up and take care of it or we’ll step up and fix it in federal court.”