MYNORTHWEST NEWS

Puyallup dam faces ‘biggest environmental crime’ fine of $1M

May 8, 2023, 3:49 PM

The Washington Attorney General’s office just issued the largest fine for an environmental crime in state history after the Pierce County Superior Court ordered a hydroelectric dam on the Puyallup River pay $1 million to restore the river.

Electron Hydro, LLC operates a hydroelectric dam on the Puyallup River, and while working on the construction of a temporary bypass channel, the dam placed artificial field turf onto the riverbed. The artificial turf contained toxic chemicals in the rubber crumbs, which ended up in the river.

As lawsuits mount, government looks into removing Electron Dam

Workers were directed by COO Thom Fischer to place artificial turf and crumb rubber that contain toxic chemicals into the riverbed. Workers then diverted the river, which ripped the liner and caused toxic debris to flow into the Puyallup River for approximately 10 days before agencies ordered them to stop work at the site.

Electron Hydro estimated it placed approximately 2,400 square yards of turf material.

In late October, Lisa Anderson, environmental attorney for the Puyallup Tribe, said broken pieces of the turf can still be seen in the river today.

The crumb rubber in the turf that Electron Hydro placed in the river contained 6PPD-Quinone, which is highly toxic to Coho Salmon, an important salmon population in the river which Puyallup Tribal Fisheries helps maintain with acclimation pods upstream of the site.

Charges against the company included violations of the state’s Water Pollution Control Act, Fish and Wildlife Enforcement Code, Shoreline Management Act, and Pierce County Code.

The company and Fischer pleaded guilty in February to a gross misdemeanor violation for the unlawful hydraulic project. On May 5, Pierce County Superior Court Judge Philip Sorenson sentenced Electron Hydro to pay $250,000 in penalties, the corporate maximum sentence, and Fischer to pay $5,000 in penalties. Fischer was also sentenced to 364 days in jail, suspended as long as he complies with his sentence and does not violate the law again.

Electron Hydro will also pay $745,000 in restitution to the Puyallup Tribal Fisheries to clean up the environmental damage done to the rivers.

“This outcome directs critical resources towards restoring the Puyallup River from the damage caused by Electron Hydro’s criminal conduct,” Attorney General Bob Ferguson said in a statement. “The Puyallup Tribe has been a steward of the Puyallup River for generations, and the Puyallup Tribal Fisheries is best positioned to preserve, restore and enhance the river.”

The artificial turf pollution prompted Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier to call for the dam’s removal in September 2020.

“There are a lot of different people who have looked at this and said, ‘We need to finish this, we need to shut this down and move on, and start restoring the fish run and letting the river recover,’” Dammeier said.

“It’s just time, this dam has outlived its purpose.”

MyNorthwest News

Photo: Detectives are investigating a Seattle drive-by shooting that happened early Saturday mornin...

Julia Dallas

Seattle police: Woman shot in both hands in early morning drive-by shooting

Detectives are investigating a Seattle drive-by shooting that happened early Saturday morning. A woman was shot in her hands.

10 hours ago

Photo: President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the 75th anniversary of NATO at the Andrew W. Mellon...

MyNorthwest and KIRO Newsradio staff

‘Bring it on:’ Washington officials react to Biden dropping out of the race

Washington officials have reacted to President Joe Biden dropping out of the 2024 presidential election.

15 hours ago

I-5 pedestrian killed...

Bill Kaczaraba

Man killed in hit-and-run on Interstate 5 in Seattle

The Washington State Patrol is in the process of gathering further details about a traffic incident on Interstate-5that left one man dead.

2 days ago

Tegu Tazz...

KATY WADE, KIRO 7 NEWS

Granite Falls alligator turns out to be escaped pet tegu named ‘Tazz’

Reports of a 10-foot alligator have turned out to be an “incredibly docile and friendly” pet tegu by the name of Tazz.

2 days ago

Apartment fire in Sotuh Lake Union. (via KIRO 7)...

Bill Kaczaraba

South Lake Union apartment fire contained, 2 may be injured

An apartment fire in South Lake Union has been contained, but two people may have been injured.. The fire was in the 320 block of 7th Ave N but units remain in the area. Authorities are asking you to avoid the area. Firefighters are on scene at a reported fire in an apartment building in […]

2 days ago

CrowdStrike...

MATT O'BRIEN, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

How a faulty CrowdStrike update crashed computers around the world

All it took was one faulty CrowdStrike software update to cause global disruptions that grounded flights, and other services.

2 days ago

Puyallup dam faces ‘biggest environmental crime’ fine of $1M