Department of Ecology News Release - September 24, 2009

09-233

Gravel pit in Skagit County fined for illegal waste storage

BELLINGHAM – The Department of Ecology (Ecology) has fined an inactive gravel pit operating as Skagit Hill Recycling, Inc. (Skagit Hill) near Sedro Woolley $46,000 for water quality permit violations. A companion order directs the facility to immediately remove a 70-foot pile of boiler waste and other improperly stored materials.

Stormwater from the facility at 7705 State Route 9 drains into the ground. The piles – which can leach toxic pollutants when rain falls on them – sit on porous sand and gravel. The materials include boiler ash, concrete and asphalt chunks, tires, and construction debris such as asphalt shingles, fiberglass insulation, plastic piping, copper tubing and painted wood.

The former mine operates under a state water quality permit for sand and gravel facilities. The permit doesn’t allow the storage of “non-inert” materials, such as those now on the site.

The ash pile comes from a sawmill’s wood-burning boiler. The ash is known to contain arsenic, lead, zinc, cadmium, cobalt, mercury, molybdenum, sulfur, magnesium, calcium, and phosphoric acid.

Ecology issued Skagit Hill a warning letter in 2008, directing the company to remove the pile. The Skagit County Health and Planning departments also have investigated the facility for solid waste and zoning violations. The county and Ecology have cooperated in their related investigations. The Skagit County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office has brought separate action against the company for land use code violations.

“The ash pile and other materials pose a serious and direct threat to ground water quality,” said Richard Grout, who manages Ecology’s Bellingham Field Office. “We and our county partners have visited, called and written Skagit Hill over and over. It’s past time to get those materials out of that gravel pit.”

Ecology’s penalty also cites Skagit Hill for failing to have and implement four plans that meet sand and gravel water quality permit requirements:

The plans are critical tools for preventing water pollution.

Skagit Hill may apply to Ecology to reconsider the penalty and order, or may appeal either or both to the Washington State Pollution Control Hearings Board within 30 days.

Ecology issues and enforces water quality permits as part of its ongoing efforts to prevent and reduce toxic threats.

Media Contacts:
Larry Altose, Ecology media relations, 425-649-7009
Richard Grout, Ecology Bellingham Field Office, 360-715-5203