Seattle, Washington July 12, 2012

On July 12, 2012, Puget Soundkeeper Alliance (Soundkeeper) filed suit against Seattle Iron & Metals (SIM) for violations under the Clean Water Act (CWA) and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). Soundkeeper’s concerns include the facility’s discharges and emissions of toxic heavy metals, hydrocarbons, oxygen-demanding substances, turbidity, PCBs, phthalates, and other harmful pollutants. The SIM scrap metal and vehicle recycling facility is one of the largest of its kind in the Northwest and it discharges stormwater directly to Seattle’s Duwamish River.

The facility, situated on the Duwamish River in Seattle’s Georgetown neighborhood, is an industrial yard with a high-volume open-air shredder, large piles of scrap metal in various stages of processing, and substantial heavy machinery and truck traffic. Other features of the facility include vehicle crushing equipment, a fueling station, equipment maintenance areas, storage and parking areas, and a large crane which runs along tracks on the edge of the wharf used to transport scrap metal on and off of barges on the river.

Seattle Iron & Metals Photo
The lower Duwamish River is a busy industrial area that is highly important ecologically and culturally for the surrounding community and for the Puget Sound region as a whole. The Lower Duwamish River Valley is the traditional home of the Duwamish Tribe, and includes the modern communities of South Park, Georgetown and Tukwila. The community and river area are in a state of renewal and restoration. The lower river, into which Seattle Iron & Metals contributes pollutants, is on EPA’s National Priorities List for Superfund cleanup and an active cleanup is underway at various sites around the river.

The Duwamish supports populations of seven salmon and trout species including endangered Chinook salmon, steelhead and bull trout, as well as cutthroat trout, pink salmon, chum salmon and coho salmon. Salmonids are highly sensitive to toxic pollutants particularly copper, zinc and certain petroleum compounds. The river is also important habitat for seabirds and waterfowl including the great blue heron, green heron, western grebe, kingfisher, osprey and bald eagle, and marine mammals including river otters, harbor seals, and California sea lions. Soundkeeper is deeply concerned about the impacts of pollution from SIM on water quality, aquatic life, the marine ecosystem, human health, and the surrounding community which depends on the improving health of the Duwamish River.

The SIM facility’s stormwater is regulated by a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. The Clean Water Act suit, filed in federal court, seeks to enforce the provisions of the CWA and RCRA in order to stop the pollution and heal the damage to the river and surrounding community. The CWA prohibits the discharge of pollutants to waters of the state that are not in compliance with an NPDES permit. The RCRA prohibits solid waste management practices or disposal of solid waste or hazardous waste which constitutes open dumping. Soundkeeper’s CWA claims include numerous violations of permit limits for the discharge of toxic heavy metals including copper, zinc and lead, as well as high levels of petroleum hydrocarbons, turbidity and other pollutants. Many of these claims are based on the facility’s own monitoring data. Soundkeeper’s RCRA claim concerns the open burning of  waste materials without proper control and containment, resulting in deposition of polluting matter onto the river and the surrounding community. Violators of the CWA and RCRA are subject to civil penalties of $37,500 per day per violation.

Soundkeeper is represented in this action by Smith & Lowney, PLLC.

Read the U.S. District Court filing

Read the EarthFix/ InvestigateWest/ KUOW coverage