A company on the Duwamish River that recovers metal from cars and other machinery continued to discharge excessive levels of zinc, copper, lead, and other pollutants into the waterway over the past two years.
The Washington Department of Ecology has fined Seattle Iron and Metals Corp. (Seattle Iron) $98,000, for violations in 2017 and 2018. The company violated limits on pollutant discharges into the river dozens of times, and failed to maintain facilities that protect the waterway from untreated stormwater.
“Seattle Iron and Metals’ pattern of repeated violations is unacceptable,” said Heather Bartlett, who manages Ecology’s Water Quality Program. “They must get their treatment system to perform as required, because it’s critical to protect the Duwamish and Puget Sound from pollutants that are toxic to fish and other marine life.”
Under an Ecology water quality permit, the facility at 601 South Myrtle St operates a treatment system to remove pollutants from stormwater that drains from 8.6 acres of the property before discharging treated water into the river.
Monitoring conducted by Seattle Iron as part of their permit showed the company discharged zinc, copper, lead, petroleum compounds, or fine particles at levels above the limits 43 times in 2017 and 2018. The pollutants are byproducts of converting old cars and appliances to usable metals.
Meanwhile, Ecology observed other violations in a late 2017 inspection, including:
- Dark-colored water discharging from the treatment system into the Duwamish.
- Holes in docks where fluids and pieces of scrap could fall into the water.
- Polluted stormwater flowing to the river because drains and curbs needed maintenance.
Ecology ordered Seattle Iron to immediately correct these violations. In response, the company has:
- Hired consultants to assess the treatment system, made upgrades to its filtration process, and hired full time staff to operate and maintain it.
- Stopped using one of its two docks, made deck repairs to the other, and applied for city permits to renovate both.
- Caught up with storm drain maintenance so the water flows into the facility’s stormwater treatment system.
The company also has updated a required plan for keeping pollution out of stormwater and to ensure proper operation and maintenance of its stormwater drainage and treatment systems. In addition, they have painted metallic roofs and siding to prevent the leaching of metals into stormwater.
Seattle Iron paid Ecology $64,000 and $16,000 for penalties issued in 2017 and 2014, respectively, for similar violations at the facility.
The company issued the following statement: “Seattle Iron & Metals Corp. takes environmental compliance very seriously. Many concerns have already been addressed and the company will continue in its commitment to achieve full compliance as expeditiously as possible.”
The Lower Duwamish Waterway is listed as a federal Superfund site due to sediment contamination from PCBs and other compounds. Ecology and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency co-manage the cleanup of the 5-mile site. Ecology’s water quality compliance efforts support that cleanup by helping to control sources of pollutants to the river.
Ecology water quality penalties go to the state’s Coastal Protection Fund which issues grants to public agencies and tribes for water quality restoration projects. The penalty may be appealed to the Washington State Pollution Control Hearings Board.