May 10, 2016

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

Consent decree requires pollution control measures to protect Elliott Bay

SEATTLE, WA — On May 9, a major Clean Water Act lawsuit between Puget Soundkeeper Alliance (Soundkeeper), the Port of Seattle, and Cruise Terminals of America reached a settlement to better control pollution discharging into Elliott Bay. Under a binding consent decree filed Monday in federal court, the Port must now undertake better practices to prevent stormwater pollution from their Pier 66 facility, which services 203 cruise ship sailings a year.

The settlement requires that the Port and the new tenant, Norwegian Cruise Lines, follow specific best management practices at the facility and report twice a year to Soundkeeper. A payment of $50,000 will be directed to the Puget Sound Stewardship and Mitigation Fund administered by the Rose Foundation to support third-party restoration and pollution prevention projects. The parties are also executing a five-year agreement for neighboring Pier 91, operated by the Port and Cruise Terminals of America.

“Soundkeeper will monitor activities at both cruise terminals carefully over the next ten years to verify they are implementing the agreement,” said Chris Wilke, Executive Director at Puget Soundkeeper. “It is critical that the Port take responsibility for cleaning up its facilities and do its part to protect the Sound.”

Soundkeeper had sued the Port and its tenant Cruise Terminals of America, the previous tenant at Pier 66, in September of 2014 over the unregulated discharge of industrial stormwater to Elliott Bay. Although the Port refused to monitor discharge from the pier, runoff samples from similar industrial facilities are shown to contain copper, lead, zinc, and petroleum compounds that threaten salmon and other aquatic life. Stormwater runoff is the single-largest contributor of toxic pollution to the Sound and is a top regional priority in the ongoing cleanup of the Sound.

During the course of the litigation the Port had ample opportunity to accept industrial stormwater obligations under the Clean Water Act that are shared by 1200 other facilities statewide. By refusing to accept these obligations the Port expended substantial public resources that could have been used to implement needed protections for the Sound.

“The Port made this case last much longer than necessary,” said Katelyn Kinn, Puget Soundkeeper Staff Attorney. “By refusing to operate within the framework of the Clean Water Act, the Port has failed to live up to their stated environmental values, placing the interests of the cruise industry above the welfare of Puget Sound. We are hopeful that this settlement means the Port will begin to act as a leader in protecting the waterways their businesses depend on.”

Soundkeeper was represented in this case by Marc Zemel and Richard Smith, Smith and Lowney, PLLC, and Soundkeeper’s Staff Attorney Katelyn Kinn.


Puget Soundkeeper is a community advocacy group whose mission is to protect and preserve the waters of Puget Sound. Established in 1984, Soundkeeper is a founding member of the international Waterkeeper Alliance.