June 14, 2018

Chris Wilke, Puget Soundkeeper & Executive Director, (206) 297-7002

TACOMA, WA — Puget Soundkeeper has settled a major Clean Water Act case with APM Terminals, a container port operator, to protect South Puget Sound and Commencement Bay from polluted stormwater runoff. The consent decree filed in U.S. District Court on Tuesday holds APM Terminals Tacoma, LLC accountable for serious pollution violations at the West Sitcum Terminal in Tacoma, where they operated for over 30 years. The settlement requires that APM pay $368,000 to the Puget Sound Stewardship and Mitigation Fund for restoration activities in Commencement Bay.

Soundkeeper filed its complaint in federal court against APM on January 9, 2017, after extensive research showed that the company had been discharging high levels of zinc and copper to a water body already impaired by pollution, in violation of their Clean Water Act permit. Since 2005, water samples taken by the company consistently showed impermissibly high levels of these toxic heavy metals, and the most recent discharges contained copper concentrations over 18 times the permit limit. Copper and zinc are particularly harmful to salmon at very low levels, and controlling the discharge of these contaminants is critical for protecting water quality and the use of public waterways.

“APM clearly violated their Clean Water Act permit, polluting the West Sitcum waterway for years and never taking responsibility for their actions,” said Chris Wilke, Puget Soundkeeper Executive Director. “This settlement will help the community around Commencement Bay repair the damage caused by APM’s actions, and make clear to all industrial operators that compliance with clean waters laws is essential to doing business in our area.”

In 2013, APM’s discharge triggered a requirement to install a stormwater treatment system under their Clean Water Act permit. Despite this clear obligation, the company avoided that responsibility for the next five years, continuing to profit from operating at the terminal while polluting Commencement Bay. In October of 2018, APM ceased operations and vacated the site, having never met their obligation to install appropriate treatment for pollution prevention.

The West Sitcum Terminal is owned by the Port of Tacoma, and APM, a subsidiary of A.P. Moller-Maersk, the largest container ship and supply vessel operator in the world, began operations there in 1983. The terminal is one of the largest shipping terminals in the country and one of the largest facilities regulated by Washington’s industrial stormwater general permit. Port of Tacoma and the new tenant, SSA Terminals, are now responsible for installing adequate treatment at the site to control pollution and protect public waterways. Soundkeeper has an ongoing Clean Water Act case against both the Port and SSA Terminals in order to bring them into compliance with clean water laws and ensure the health of Commencement Bay. Soundkeeper was represented by Knoll Lowney and Alyssa Englebrecht of Smith and Lowney, PLLC.