Special Topics in Environmental Management

$850K in Fines for Stormwater Violations

Industrial stormwater has been regulated for decades under the Clean Water Act (CWA) but violations continue to plague both regulators and our nation’s waterways. In a joint operation between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Washington Department of Ecology, four Seattle-area firms from diverse industries received penalties amounting to almost $850,000 for failure to comply with some of the most fundamental aspects of the industrial stormwater regulations.

The actions are part of an ongoing strategy to cleanup Washington’s Duwamish River which is listed on the National Priorities List under the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA).

The company receiving the stiffest penalty, a cement manufacturer, will pay $600,000 for multiple violations. The Complaint Settlement stated the civil penalties for unpermitted point-source discharges of stormwater on “at least 113 days between October 2005 and April 2010” without a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permit (NPDES) were assessed at “up to $32,500 per day for each violation occurring after March 15, 2004 through and including January 12, 2009, and up to $37,500 per day per violation occurring after that date.”

In addition, the company was assessed civil penalties for the unpermitted discharge of pollutants from process wastewater that occurred at its truck wash station, “on at least one occasion” in 2009. The company’s stormwater runoff was determined to contain copper, mercury and zinc.


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The second runner-up for largest penalty assessed was an auto wrecking and recycling facility that also discharged industrial stormwater without a permit from the time they began operations in mid-2008 until they were first inspected in 2012. In 2011, however, the EPA sent the company information about stormwater compliance and enforcement as part of an industry-wide attempt to inform salvage yards and recyclers about their regulatory obligations.

Despite this warning, as well as an EPA inspection in February 2012, a second in March (at which time samples were taken), and a Notice of Violation (NOV) the following July, records state the company did not file a Notice of Intent (NOI) to apply for coverage under the Washington Industrial Stormwater General Permit (ISGP) until October 2012. Tests on stormwater samples taken by EPA in March showed the presence of petroleum, zinc, copper, arsenic, cadmium, and lead.

Under a unilateral complaint filed by the EPA, the company was determined to be a point-source discharger and was assessed penalties of $177,500 (the maximum allowed) for failure to apply for a permit and discharging without a permit. Needless to say, EPA’s complaint stressed the fact that the company ignored four attempts by the agency to get the company to comply, not the least of which was the NOV.


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The third highest penalty assessed, $36,000, went to a construction storage yard and maintenance facility that violated its general permit from 2010 through 2012. According to the Consent Agreement and Final Order, while the company was performing required sampling, it failed to take Level Three Corrective Action for zinc and turbidity, both of which exceeded parameters defined in the general permit. In addition, the company was also cited for having two uncovered dumpsters on their site.

Last but not least, the smallest assessed penalty went to a truck-to-rail transfer facility of “non-hazardous contaminated soils, sludges and other materials.” The $33,750 fine was for multiple industrial stormwater discharges in 2009 and 2011 that violated the general permit.  In its Consent Agreement and Final Order, EPA’s first charge cited illegal discharges of industrial process wastewater containing petroleum and zinc from a truck wheel wash to a storm sewer without a permit. The second charge was for failure to sample discharges from a stormwater outfall that was not “documented or identified as  substantially identical” to another sampled outfall as defined in the facility’s Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP).

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