Department of Ecology News Release - August 11, 2015

BNSF fined $86,000 for water quality violations in Whatcom and Skagit counties

BELLINGHAM – The Department of Ecology has fined BNSF Railway $86,000 for placing creosote-treated railroad ties and other materials from maintenance projects in Whatcom and Skagit county water bodies.

“BNSF has repeatedly disregarded water quality protection at projects along or near the water,” said Heather Bartlett, Ecology’s Water Quality program manager. “We understand the importance of repair and maintenance, but all sorts of industries plan environmental practices into such work. We expect BNSF Railway to do so, as well.”

Ecology’s penalty covers four projects along BNSF rail lines:

Creosote is toxic to aquatic life, and Washington has invested millions of dollars removing creosote treated wood from marine and estuarine waters. Excess sediment in the water damages habitat and can smother fish spawning areas.

Ecology cited BNSF for failing to employ industry-standard pollution prevention practices, despite warnings and technical assistance.

Proceeds from Ecology’s water quality penalties supports Ecology’s Coastal Protection Fund, which issues grants to public agencies for natural resource restoration projects.

Ecology actions under state clean water law may be appealed within 30 days to the Washington State Pollution Control Hearings Board.


Larry Altose, communications,, 425-649-7009, @ecySeattle

Doug Allen, Bellingham Field Office Supervisor,, 360-715-5200