January 20, 2015

Chris Wilke, Puget Soundkeeper Alliance
(206) 297-7002;

SEATTLE, WA—Puget Soundkeeper Alliance (Soundkeeper) has resolved one of its largest Clean Water Act suits to date with an agreement that will substantially reduce stormwater pollution to the Duwamish River and Elliott Bay. In a Consent Decree filed today, SSA Terminals has agreed to reduce their pollution discharges by installing stormwater treatment systems at their 200-acre Terminal 18 container facility at the Port of Seattle on Harbor Island that will remove significant amounts of pollution from stormwater prior to its discharge to the Duwamish River. In settlement of the claims, SSA Terminals agreed to pay $215,000 for third-party mitigation and restoration projects in Puget Sound.

“Polluted stormwater runoff is the number-one source of toxic pollution to Puget Sound,” said Puget Soundkeeper and Executive Director Chris Wilke. “SSA Terminals has one of the largest facilities discharging to the Duwamish River and Elliott Bay and its legal agreement to install stormwater treatment systems is a significant step in reducing contamination to these important and threatened waterways.”

Soundkeeper filed the suit against SSA Terminals in 2011 in US District Court, under the Clean Water Act’s “citizen suit” provision, which authorizes concerned community members to take action to protect public waterways when public agencies fail to do so. Soundkeeper charged that SSA Terminals was in violation of the state-issued Industrial Stormwater General Permit, which regulates discharge of stormwater from their facility. Terminal 18 is the largest container terminal in the Pacific Northwest and is a high-volume industrial site. Upwards of 135 semi trucks enter the gates every hour during peak hours, and the terminal has a 4,440-foot deep-draft berthing capacity to accommodate large ocean-going cargo ships.

This settlement is an important step to reducing contaminated stormwater entering into Puget Sound and surrounding waterways, which is a chief concern for recovery of endangered salmon, orca whales and other species.

“By the nature of its industrial activity at Terminal 18, SSA Terminals has a history of generating elevated levels of pollutants, including heavy metals like zinc and copper,” said Soundkeeper staff attorney Katelyn Kinn. “These toxins are harmful to salmon and other species even in very small quantities.” Other pollutants of concern at the site include fecal coliform bacteria and turbidity.

As a direct result of the settlement, SSA Terminals will be required to reduce the amount of pollution discharged to Puget Sound, Elliott Bay and the Duwamish River by improving its operations and installing advanced stormwater treatment systems to filter stormwater runoff before it is discharged. The Terminal 18 facility is located on the Duwamish River, which has been a dumping ground for industrial waste throughout much of Seattle’s history. The EPA recently released a $342 million cleanup plan for the Duwamish that will remove many contaminants in the river’s sediments, but the ongoing health of the river relies on preventing pollution at the source.

The pending consent decree is subject to approval by the Court and the United States Department of Justice.

Puget Soundkeeper was represented in the lawsuit by Richard Smith, Knoll Lowney and Elizabeth Zultoski of Smith & Lowney, PLLC.

Puget Soundkeeper is a community advocacy group whose mission is to protect and preserve the waters of Puget Sound. Soundkeeper is a licensed member of the international Waterkeeper Alliance, which fights to protect waterways around the world. Soundkeeper does not receive any money from this settlement beyond direct legal expenses. All addional settlement funds will go to the Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment’s Puget Sound Stewardship & Mitigation Fund which will pay for third-party restoration and water-quality projects in the affected watershed and nearby waters.

View the settlement decision HERE.