From the federal Clean Water Act of 1972, Section 505 (a):

” …any citizen may commence a civil action on his own behalf against any person … who is alleged to be in violation of (A) an effluent standard or limitation… or (B) an order issued by the Administrator or a State with respect to such a standard or limitation…”


The Soundkeeper patrol boat in front of Seattle Iron and Metals, on the Duwamish River.

Puget Soundkeeper Alliance enforces the Clean Water Act via citizen action lawsuits on behalf of its members. Soundkeeper reviews NPDES permit compliance and when necessary to protect water quality, brings citizen lawsuits against the most egregious violators.

In 1992 Soundkeeper undertook its first litigation to enforce the Clean Water Act, with a complaint against the City of Bremerton for excessive discharges from their Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) system, and against the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard for operating without an NPDES permit. Soundkeeper’s settlement with Bremerton required them to fast-track implementation of a CSO reduction project. 20 years later, the City has completed its CSO reduction project, a $50 million investment that has delivered some of the strongest water pollution management in the state. The improvements have reduced CSO frequency by more than 99 percent, and CSO flow by 96 percent. As a direct result, shellfish beds in Dyes Inlet that had been closed to commercial harvest since the 1960s were reopened and today support harvests by the Suquamish Tribe. This case provides just one example of citizen legal action as an effective tool.

Since 1992, Soundkeeper has undertaken more than 170 legal actions. Most cases have been resolved without going to trial, resulting in over $5.16 million in mitigation and penalty money for environmental restoration projects and water quality improvement projects in the location where the pollution occurred. Soundkeeper does not financially benefit from these settlements above or beyond reimbursement for litigation expenses.

See Soundkeeper’s Citizen Lawsuit page for a full description of this important Clean Water Act provision and how it works.

 

Soundkeeper’s Clean Water Act Victories

2016
  • Louis Dreyfus – Pier 86 Grain Terminal (Filed July 14, 2016 – Awaiting Court Approval) Downtown Seattle grain terminal agrees to extensive structural upgrades to stop stormwater discharge from pier, and to prevent spillage of grain (soybeans) from chute and conveyor loading system into Elliott Bay. Louis Dreyfus also agreed to infiltrate land-based industrial stormwater rather than discharging it to the bay. $699,000 payment in lieu of penalty awarded to Rose Foundation, Puget Sound Stewardship and Mitigation Fund to fund habitat restoration and/or water quality improvement projects in Elliott Bay and central Puget Sound.
  • BP Seattle Terminal (July 13, 2016) High-volume bulk fuel storage facility on Harbor Island agrees to improve spill response strategy to protect Elliott Bay from the risks of a fuel spill. BP also agreed to control its industrial stormwater pollution to the Duwamish River. $88,000 payment in lieu of penalty awarded to Rose Foundation, Puget Sound Stewardship and Mitigation Fund to fund habitat restoration and/or water quality improvement projects in the Duwamish Watershed and central Puget Sound.
  • Steeler (July 19, 2016) Steel stud manufacturer agrees to install advanced stormwater treatment system to reduce industrial stormwater pollution discharged to Green River. $20,000 payment in lieu of penalty awarded to Rose Foundation, Puget Sound Stewardship and Mitigation Fund to fund habitat restoration and/or water quality improvement projects in the Green/ Duwamish watershed.
  • Buse Timber (July 6, 2016) Timber cutting sawmill agrees to improve stormwater monitoring, clean debris from log float beach, cease illicit discharges, and update and improve stormwater pollution controls to prevent industrial pollution to Union Slough in the Snohomish River Estuary. $4,000 payment in lieu of penalty awarded to Rose Foundation, Puget Sound Stewardship and Mitigation Fund to fund habitat restoration and/or water quality improvement projects in the Snohomish River watershed and adjacent coastal waters of Puget Sound.
  • Pier 66 and Pier 91 Cruise Terminals (May 24 & July 6, 2016) Port of Seattle and Cruise Terminals of America agree to follow specific best management practices to control industrial stormwater pollution to Elliott Bay from both downtown Seattle cruise ship terminals. $50,000 awarded to Rose Foundation, Puget Sound Stewardship and Mitigation Fund to fund habitat restoration and/or water quality improvement projects in central Puget Sound.
  • Whitley Evergreen, Marysville, WA (April 11, 2016) Facility agrees to seek Industrial Stormwater General Permit coverage and make site improvements to control pollution to Quilceda Creek and Hayho Creek, which drain to Ebey Slough and the Snohomish River. These improvements include a stormwater pollution prevention plan and best management practices. $180,000 penalty awarded to Rose Foundation, Puget Sound Stewardship and Mitigation Fund to fund habitat restoration and/or water quality improvement projects in Puget Sound.
  • Rainier Petroleum Corporation, Pier 15, Harbor Island (January 8, 2016) Facility agrees to control previously errant runoff from its fueling pier and install a filtration system to treat all stormwater from its Pier 15 facility on Harbor Island at the mouth of the Duwamish River. Importantly, Rainier, which fuels the Washington State ferries, also agreed to comply with critical oil spill protection measures required by the state-issued permit including adequate containment for its 82,250 gallon lube oil tank farm on the Elliott Bay shoreline. $280,000 penalty awarded to Rose Foundation, Puget Sound Stewardship and Mitigation Fund to fund habitat restoration and/or water quality improvement projects in Puget Sound.
2015
  • Rainier Petroleum Corporation, SODO Facility (October 5, 2015) Facility is now responsible for sampling twice per quarter and updating its stormwater pollution prevention plan to comply with the permit. $200,000 penalty awarded to Rose Foundation, Puget Sound Stewardship and Mitigation Fund to fund habitat restoration and/or water quality improvement projects in Puget Sound.
  • ABF Freight (October 21, 2015) Facility has agreed to develop a stormwater pollution prevention plan, sample their discharge and report pollution levels quarterly, and use best practices designed to prevent pollution at their facility and reduce pollution flowing to the Green River.  $81,250 penalty awarded to Rose Foundation, Puget Sound Stewardship and Mitigation Fund to fund habitat restoration and/or water quality improvement projects in Puget Sound.
  • SSA Terminals LLC (Terminal 18), Harbor Island Marine Cargo Terminal (March 20, 2015) Facility has agreed to install stormwater treatment systems that will significantly reduce the amount of pollution discharged to the Duwamish River. $215,00 penalty awarded to Rose Foundation, Puget Sound Stewardship and Mitigation Fund to fund habitat restoration and/or water quality improvement projects in Puget Sound.
2014
  • Ameriflight LLC, Seattle Commercial Air Cargo Carrier, tenant of King County Int’l Airport (July 8, 2014) Facility has improved sampling and record-keeping practices, and is required to inspect and maintain catch basin filters to reduce pollutants flowing to the Duwamish River. $12,500 penalty awarded to Rose Foundation, Puget Sound Stewardship and Mitigation Fund to fund habitat restoration and/or water quality improvement projects in Puget Sound.
  • Pacific Commercial Equipment, Snohomish Excavating Contractor (April 21, 2014) Facility improved in sampling and record-keeping practices, prepared a new Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) and implemented other onsite improvements to reduce pollutants flowing to Mosher Creek. $3,000 penalty awarded to Rose Foundation, Puget Sound Stewardship and Mitigation Fund to fund habitat restoration and/or water quality improvement projects in Puget Sound.
2013
  • McClean Iron Works, Everett Steelwork Fabricator (May 23, 2013) Facility implemented substantial improvements including commencing regular stormwater monitoring, installing filtration treatment units and purchasing a sweeper to enable more frequent sweeping of the site to reduce pollutants flowing into the Snohomish River. $3,000 penalty awarded to Rose Foundation, Puget Sound Stewardship and Mitigation Fund to fund habitat restoration and/or water quality improvement projects in Puget Sound.
  • Total Terminals International LLC (Terminal 46), Seattle Marine Cargo Terminal (Jan 25, 2013) Facility is installing an advanced stormwater treatment system to be completed in June 2015, and has improved onsite stormwater pollution prevention and best management practices to reduce pollution to Elliott Bay. $89,000 penalty awarded to Rose Foundation, Puget Sound Stewardship and Mitigation Fundto fund habitat restoration and/or water quality improvement projects in Puget Sound.
  • Trident Seafoods Corporation, Tacoma Shipyard (Jan 14, 2013): Facility improved onsite housekeeping to reduce the exposure of pollutant sources to stormwater and installed an advanced stormwater treatment system to reduce the discharge of heavy metals to the Hylebos Waterway. $110,000 penalty awarded to Rose Foundation, Puget Sound Stewardship and Mitigation Fund to fund habitat restoration and/or water quality improvement projects in Puget Sound.
2012
  • New West Gypsum USA Inc, Fife Plant (Dec 17, 2012): Facility improved site maintenance procedures, increased vacuum sweeping, repaired structural deficiencies and agreed to accelerated stormwater monitoring with stipulated requirements for future corrective action to reduce turbidity, copper and zinc discharges to Wapato Creek, Commencement Bay. $10,000 penalty awarded to Citizens for a Healthy Bay for the Puyallup River Pollution Patrol Project.
  • King County International Airport (Oct 26, 2012): Facility installed a stormwater treatment system and agreed to accelerated monitoring to address turbidity discharges to the Duwamish River. $5,000 set aside for future fees to address turbidity discharges (sampling, expert, legal fees/costs) or if not needed, then after two years to Rose Foundation, Puget Sound Stewardship and Mitigation Fund.
  • Manke Lumber Company, Shelton Log Dump (Sept 18, 2012): Facility implemented structural improvements to its stormwater conveyance system and installed a stormwater treatment system to reduce turbidity and copper discharges to Oakland Bay. $64,175 penalty awarded to Squaxin Indian Tribe for restoration work in Oakland Bay.
  • Skyline Electric & Manufacturing Co, Seattle Facility (May 8, 2012): Facility implemented onsite vacuum sweeping and installed a stormwater treatment system to reduce zinc discharges to the Duwamish River. $11,000 penalty was spent on a stormwater feasibility infiltration study.
  • BNSF Railway Company, Balmer Yard (Seattle) (Feb 14, 2012): Facility developed a stormwater pollution prevention plan, improved site housekeeping, cleaned and coated structures to eliminate zinc contributions and implemented various other structural and conveyance system improvements to address pollution discharges to Elliott Bay. $1.5 million penalty was awarded to Rose Foundation, Puget Sound Stewardship and Mitigation Fund.
2011
  • Kent Meridian Disposal (Oct 28, 2011): Facility installed catch basin inserts with filtration media to reduce turbidity, zinc and copper discharges to the Green/ Duwamish Watershed. $25,000 penalty was awarded to People for Puget Sound (EarthCorps) to maintain two restoration sites in Tukwila, Codiga Park and North Wind’s Weir.
  • Pape Machinery, Tacoma Facility (Oct 3, 2011): Facility installed an advanced stormwater treatment system to remove turbidity, copper and zinc from its stormwater discharges to the Puyallup River. $10,000 penalty was awarded to Citizens for a Healthy Bay for its Habitat Restoration and Shoreline Debris Removal Project.
2010
  • Alaska Marine Lines, Seattle Container & Receiving Dock and Duwamish Shipyard Inc Facility (Dec 17, 2010): Facility agreed to accelerated monitoring and a stipulated plan for responsive corrective action and ultimately installed an advanced stormwater treatment system to reduce turbidity, zinc, copper and total suspended solids from its stormwater discharges to the Duwamish River. $15,000 penalty was awarded to Stewardship Partners for the Rain Garden Class and Installation in the Green/ Duwamish Watershed Project.
  • Port Blakely Communities, Issaquah Highlands (Dec 10, 2010): Development project improved onsite stormwater management to reduce turbidity and improve pH in its stormwater discharges to North Fork of Issaquah Creek, Lake Sammamish. $9,000 penalty was awarded to Friends of Cedar River Watershed for its Rain Garden Construction Project.
  • City of Port Angeles, Port Angeles Landfill (Nov 1, 2010): The City ceased discharging stormwater from their compost area by rerouting it to sanitary sewer for treatment and improved best management practices to reduce pollutants in their remaining stormwater discharges to Dry Creek, the Strait of Juan de Fuca. $10,000 penalty was expended on the City’s Valley Creek Stormwater Outfall and Habitat Improvement Project.
  • Western Pneumatic Tube Company, Kirkland Facility (Oct 28, 2010): The facility recoated its roof to contain high-zinc material exposure and reduce zinc in its stormwater discharges to Moss Bay. $7,500 penalty was awarded to Friends of Cedar River Watershed for the Demonstration Raingarden Construction Project.
  • (To be continued…)