Department of Ecology News Release - August 22, 2016

BNSF agrees to $75,000 fine for water quality violations
Company to implement environmental protections during railroad work

BELLINGHAM – BNSF Railway will pay a $75,000 fine and improve environmental protections during track maintenance work in Skagit and Whatcom counties under an agreement with the Washington Department of Ecology to settle a 2015 penalty for water quality violations.

Ecology originally cited BNSF for four water quality violations after the company placed creosote-treated railroad ties and other materials in nearby waters during maintenance projects in Whatcom and Skagit counties.

Ecology reduced the penalty amount from $86,000 to $75,000 with BNSF’s agreement to take specific steps to prevent water pollution when replacing wooden railroad ties.

“The long-term environmental benefit that will come from this agreement is significant,” said Heather Bartlett, water quality program manager at Ecology. “This sets a platform for future conversations, and we look forward to continuing our work with BNSF to protect water quality and the environment.”

As part of the settlement, BNSF agrees to:

Proceeds from the fine will pay for environmental improvement projects. Ecology and BNSF will select a project to receive $45,000 in the South Fork of the Nooksack River or the near shore marine environment in Whatcom or Skagit counties. The remaining $30,000 will be deposited into Ecology’s coastal protection fund, which provides grants to state agencies and local and tribal governments for environmental restoration projects that improve water quality.

Creosote-treated wood is toxic to aquatic life. Washington agencies have invested millions of dollars to remove creosote treated wood from marine and estuary waters.


Krista Kenner, Ecology communications, 360-715-5205, @ecyNorth