FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
July 14, 2016
Chris Wilke, Puget Soundkeeper Alliance
(206) 297-7002; firstname.lastname@example.org
SEATTLE, WA — Today Puget Soundkeeper settled a landmark Clean Water Act case with multiple Louis Dreyfus corporations that will result in huge changes benefitting Elliott Bay and the Seattle waterfront. Louis Dreyfus operates a 24-acre bulk grain storage and export facility at Seattle’s Pier 86 that includes a rail yard, massive grain silos, a grain elevator, and a shipping pier. The settlement requires structural changes at the site to stop stormwater discharge from the pier and to prevent spillage of grain into Elliott Bay, as well as $699,000 to be awarded to local Puget Sound restoration and water protection efforts. The case was scheduled to go to trial in two weeks.
Soundkeeper initiated a community lawsuit against all five Louis Dreyfus corporate entities in 2014, based on evidence that the company’s massive grain terminal on the Seattle waterfront was discharging polluted stormwater to the sensitive marine environment, a violation of their industrial stormwater permit. Several months later, Soundkeeper received a pollution report with video of one of the loading chutes spilling massive amounts of grain into the water.
“Grain and other organic matter acts like fertilizer in the marine environment,” said Chris Wilke, Puget Soundkeeper. “It increases growth of algae and sucks up extra oxygen, creating dead zones where aquatic organisms can’t survive. Elliott Bay is already polluted, and four species of Puget Sound salmon migrate along this shoreline. That was a real red flag for us.”
Soundkeeper began to look more closely at grain spillage from the terminal and discovered that spills were frequent, both from the loading chutes and from the pier. The settlement requires extensive upgrades to the loading system at the terminal to prevent such spills. In response to Soundkeeper’s lawsuit, Louis Dreyfus made modifications to send stormwater from their land-based site to infiltration ditches, rather than discharging it to the bay. By September of next year, all stormwater from the pier will also be routed back to land.
“This is a huge win for Puget Sound,” said Katelyn Kinn, Soundkeeper Staff Attorney. “Such a large site can have a massive impact on waterways if the discharge isn’t handled correctly, and we’re now confident that Louis Dreyfus will be successful at controlling pollution from their site.”
Earlier this year, Soundkeeper filed for summary judgement in the case. The Court found over 1500 violations of the Clean Water Act at the grain terminal site, from both stormwater and grain discharge. The Clean Water Act provides for civil penalties of up to $37,500 per violation per day. In lieu of those penalties, Louis Dreyfus will pay $699,000 to the Puget Sound Stewardship and Mitigation Fund, administered by the Rose Foundation. The fund, which began with Soundkeeper’s $1.5 million settlement against BNSF Railway in 2013, awards grants to third-party groups doing mitigation and restoration work to build resilience in Puget Sound and speed recovery in areas affected by pollution.
The two parties jointly filed a proposed consent decree. The decree is subject to judicial review.
Soundkeeper was represented in this case by Knoll Lowney and Marc Zemel, Smith & Lowney, PLLC and Soundkeeper Staff Attorney Katelyn Kinn.
Puget Soundkeeper is a citizen 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. Soundkeeper has successfully settled over 170 citizen Clean Water Act cases.