Electron Dam owner fined $500K over Puyallup River pollution
The Washington State Department of Ecology has hit Electron Dam owner Electron Hydro, LLC with a $501,000 fine for putting sheets of artificial turf in the Puyallup River last summer.
During a construction project at the dam, Electron Hydro put more than 2,400 square yards of the turf in the river without permission from state agencies. The rushing water caused about a quarter of the turf to disintegrate, sending between 4 and 6 cubic yards’ worth of coffee-ground sized pieces of rubber downstream to Commencement Bay in Tacoma.
“These toxic materials had no place in the river,” said Department of Ecology Director Laura Watson in a statement. “The force of the water tore the turf apart, washed it downriver, and sent it right into the food web.”
The rubber turf, which was obtained from a roadside dump site, is made from ground up tires, and can be poisonous to animals that call the river their home — especially the endangered salmon that migrate through it. This comes when Southern Resident orca numbers have fallen in recent decades, in part because there are not enough salmon to eat.
Ecology noted in a press release that it was a private citizen, not the company, that first informed them that the turf was there and had broken apart. Though Electron Hydro told the department it had already cleaned more than 13,000 pounds of the material after being asked to clean it up right away last summer, Ecology noted that Electron Hydro left the remaining sheets of turf in place until late October.
Besides the $500,000 fine, Ecology is ordering Electron Hydro to come up with a set of water quality plans to atone for the damage done to the Puyallup River.
“This is an environmental tragedy that didn’t have to happen,” Watson emphasized.
The fine is far from the first consequence of the pollution. As early as last autumn, Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier stated that he wanted to remove the Electron Dam, as the 117-year-old dam was doing far more harm than good. Electron Hydro is also facing lawsuits from the Puyallup Tribe, local environmental nonprofits, and the federal government.
KIRO Radio has reached out to Electron Hydro for comment.