Department of Ecology News Release - Aug. 7, 2018
King County will pay $100,500 to the state Department of Ecology and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for violating certain conditions of its state water quality permit related to combined sewer overflows (CSO).
The payments are required under a legal agreement between the county, Ecology and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on controlling overflows from wastewater lines that carry both untreated sewage and stormwater.
Ecology also has fined the county an additional $18,000 for related violations of the permit that do not have mandatory penalties identified in the agreement.
The two penalties – $118,500 in total – involve discharges that entered Puget Sound, the Duwamish River, Elliott Bay and Lake Washington. Releases contained bacteria and other pollutants that can make waters unsafe for people and pets.
In 2016 and the first quarter of 2017, King County exceeded pollutant limits 27 times at its four special wastewater plants for CSO discharges. The county also reported five unpermitted overflows from four other locations during the same period.
Ecology and EPA will each receive half of the joint penalty, or $50,250.
Ecology’s separate penalty fines the county $18,000 for violating its state water quality permit at three of its four CSO treatment plants. The county discharged treated wastewater that was too acidic seven times, too caustic once, and not properly disinfected once.
The county may invoke dispute resolution procedures if it believes Ecology and EPA have assessed the penalties incorrectly. The Ecology penalty can be appealed to the Washington State Pollution Control Hearings Board.
Water quality penalty payments to Ecology are placed into the state’s Coastal Protection Fund, which issues grants to public agencies and tribes for water quality restoration projects.
Under the legal agreement – and earlier agreed orders with Ecology – the county has committed to eliminate sewer overflows in all but the largest storms. More reductions are expected as current and future projects come on line. Completed projects – including large storage tanks to hold excess combined sewage – already help reduce overflows. The county also is continuing efforts to prevent future violations at its CSO treatment plants.
The penalties do not involve the county’s main treatment plants – Brightwater, Renton and West Point.