Washington State Department of Ecology - August 6, 2013

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Ecology, Department of Transportation legal agreement settles SR 522 water quality monitoring, reporting violations

BELLEVUE – An agreed order between the Washington departments of Ecology (Ecology) and Transportation (WSDOT) will correct water-quality monitoring and reporting violations on the state’s project to widen State Route 522 from the Snohomish River to Monroe.

WSDOT noticed errors and reported them to Ecology, and supplied missing and corrected data. WSDOT reviewed its other projects and has determined this was an isolated incident. However, the agency has provided additional training to all region inspectors and is implementing improved quality control to ensure this situation does not happen again.

Under the legal agreement, WSDOT will pay a reduced penalty of $10,000, sponsor $20,000 in environmental restoration work, and maintain close oversight on submitting water-quality monitoring reports required for the highway project.

Ecology agreed to suspend the remaining $30,000 from the original $60,000 penalty. It will be forgiven under certain conditions, including avoiding any new penalties related to the project through its completion, scheduled in 2014.

The agreed order directs WSDOT to:

In January 2013, WSDOT informed Ecology that it failed to collect some of the water-quality monitoring data as required for the previous 16 months. An Ecology water-quality permit requires WSDOT to monitor stormwater discharges from nine locations along the 4-mile project.

WSDOT monitored some discharges as required, but only visually inspected others. The permit requires the taking of samples from all off-site and surface-water discharges at least weekly. Records showed that 165 discharges had received visual inspections rather than the sampling that’s required by the permit.

In addition, WSDOT’s original reports to Ecology incorrectly reported "no discharge"in some cases where sampling data had, in fact, been obtained.

Monitoring provides data that help Ecology and project managers track the effectiveness of measures taken to prevent or treat polluted runoff from construction areas, especially during rainstorms.

"We appreciated WSDOT’s forthright approach to reporting and correcting these violations,"said Kevin Fitzpatrick, Ecology’s regional water quality supervisor. "This agreed order continues in that positive spirit."

"WSDOT values and respects the environment. Once we discovered the mistake, we immediately notified Ecology and worked quickly to bring this important transportation project into compliance with our permit,"said WSDOT Project Engineer Janice Fahning, "We have learned some valuable lessons, and we’ve already retrained staff to make sure this doesn’t happen again."

Agreed orders may not be appealed by either party, but a third party may do so within 30 days to the Washington State Pollution Control Hearings Board.

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Media Contacts:

Larry Altose, Ecology media relations, 425-649-7009, larry.altose@ecy.wa.gov
Tracie Walters, Ecology stormwater inspector, 425.649-4484, tracie.walters@ecy.wa.gov
Travis Phelps, WSDOT communications, 206-440-4698, phelpst@wsdot.wa.gov

For more information:

Ecology Water Quality -Stormwater (www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/wq/stormwater/)

SR 522 Snohomish River to US 2 Widening Project (www.wsdot.wa.gov/Projects/SR522/Widen/SnoRiver_US2/)

Ecology’s social media  (www.ecy.wa.gov/about/newmedia.html)