Department of Ecology News Release - November 10, 2011

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Gravel pit fined for sending sediment to Swan Creek

OLYMPIA— The owner of a gravel pit operation on Waller Road above Swan Creek in Pierce County has been fined $24,000 by the Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology) for discharging sediment-laden water into a storm drain that emptied into the salmon-bearing creek.

Richard Dickson of the Wm. Dickson Co. was fined for violating the terms of the company’s state Sand and Gravel General Permit. The permit limits the amount of turbidity (muddiness) that the gravel operation can discharge and prohibits any discharge that violates the state’s water quality standards for turbidity.

On Sept. 20, 2011, Pierce County Public Works and Utilities reported to Ecology that county biologists had observed the muddy discharge in Swan Creek the day before, and traced it to a storm drain outfall. On Sept. 21, Pierce County Public Works and Utilities water quality specialists returned to Swan Creek and found fine gray sediment covering the bottom. The outfall pipe began discharging again while the specialists were there, and they took turbidity measurements.

Large amounts of sediment or silt in a stream can ruin important habitat areas for fish and other aquatic life, and irritate the gills of fish.

“It’s very important that we protect this fish-bearing stream that leads to Puget Sound,” said Bob Bergquist, who manages Ecology’s Water Quality Program in Southeast Washington. “This is especially critical as the fall season brings the salmon run.”

The source of the turbid water was a hole in the bottom of the pit where a pump was used to dewater the pit excavation over a bank into the creek. When Richard Dickson was notified, he instructed a worker to turn off the pump that was discharging the turbid water.

Dickson told Ecology that he intends to update his site management plans so that his facility will not discharge turbid water to Swan Creek in the future. If he objects to the penalty, he will have 30 days to appeal the fine to the state’s Pollution Control Hearings Board.

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Media Contact: Jani Gilbert, Communications, 509-329-3495; cell, 509-990-9177; e-mail jani.gilbert@ecy.wa.gov .

For more information: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/wq/wqhome.html

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