Citizens for a Healthy Bay and Puget Soundkeeper Alliance Announce Intent to Sue Over Pollution from Electron Dam

Groups join Puyallup Tribe of Indians in sending Notice of Intent to sue to hold Electron Dam owners accountable for irresponsible discharges of artificial turf and other pollution

Seattle, WA – On October 28, 2020, Citizens for a Healthy Bay (“CHB”) and Puget Soundkeeper Alliance (“PSA”) sent a Notice of Intent to Sue Letter to the energy company, Electron Hydro LLC and Tollhouse Energy Co, the owners and operators of the dam, over pollution from the dam and related construction and maintenance operations. CHB and PSA are represented by Kampmeier & Knutsen, PLLC an environmental law firm with offices in Seattle, Washington and Portland, Oregon.

Electron Hydro LLC is a subsidiary of Tollhouse Energy Company out of Bellingham, WA, whose president is Thom Fischer. CHB and PSA understand that during a maintenance project at Electron Dam at the end of July, Tollhouse Energy used old field turf during a construction project in the river, much of which subsequently washed down stream. CHB and PSA allege that these and other discharges are illegal and have put the health of the river and salmon returning to the river in danger.

The river is a home spring chinook salmon, which are important to Tribal and non-Tribal fishers alike. The fish also are a critical food source of endangered Southern Resident orcas.

“Salmon and clean water benefit everyone. It has been devastating to witness the damage to the environment created by this dam,” the Puyallup Tribal Council said in a statement of support. “We will always be here to protect our natural resources and Mother Earth. We appreciate that others stand with us in this cause.”

CHB and PSA now intend to sue Electron Hydro LLC and Tollhouse Energy Company on behalf of their constituents, members, and supporters under the Clean Water Act citizen suit provision. Regulated by the Clean Water Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, Electron Hydro LLC and Tollhouse Energy Company are required to meet federal and state requirements when discharging pollution into the Puyallup River. CHB and PSA allege that Electron Hydro LLC and Tollhouse Energy Company have violated the Clean Water Act and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act in the following ways:

  • Failure to comply with the Construction Stormwater General Permit applicable to the facility;
  • Violations of the CWA by discharging pollutants and dredged or fill material without a permit;
  • Illegal and unpermitted discharges of field turf, plastic liner, and rubber crumb;
  • Illegal and unpermitted discharges associated with the work Electron is doing pursuant to the stop work orders, to winterize the site, make the fish ladder passable, and prevent washout of the diversion structure;
  • Illegal and unpermitted discharges of heat associated with normal dam operations and of heat and dead fish associated with the fish kill on July 29.
  • Failure to comply with Ecology’s 401 certification for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ nationwide permits 3 and 13;
  • Failure to obtain a 401 certification for the activities that actually occurred and are occurring;

“When I first read the story about this fish kill, my heart went out to the Puyallup Tribe because what’s happening at Electron Dam appears to be undermining so much of the Tribe’s work to protect the salmon populations and fishery in the Puyallup River. This is one of the most egregiously brazen actions of pollution I have ever seen, and Mr. Fischer and his companies must be held accountable for any illegal pollution and damage they have caused, including cleaning up the artificial turf crumb spread down the river,” said Melissa Malott, Executive Director of Citizens for a Healthy Bay. “CHB stands with and supports the Puyallup Tribe, and we intend to hold Mr. Fischer’s companies accountable for the damage they have caused this river and our community.”

“The Puyallup River is treasured by those who live, work, recreate, play and worship along it, and it deserves to be treated with great respect and care. It is not a dumping ground to be used for profit. It is long past time that this 117-year-old dam become accountable for its impacts,” said Katelyn Kinn, Puget Soundkeeper’s Clean Water Attorney. “We stand with the Puyallup Tribe, and we are honored to partner in this important effort to achieve justice for impacted communities and river life.”

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Citizens for a Healthy Bay is a community-based, environmental non-profit whose mission is to engage people in the cleanup, restoration and protection of Commencement Bay and surrounding waters of the South Sound.

Puget Soundkeeper is an environmental non-profit whose mission is to protect and preserve the waters of Puget Sound. Since 1984, Soundkeeper has filed over 200 legal actions and all funds from successful settlements go to restoring polluted waterways in the region through the Puget Sound Stewardship & Mitigation Fund.

Notice of Intent to Sue Letter

Media Contacts:
Melissa Malott, Executive Director, mmalott@healthybay.org (253) 444-7039

Katelyn Kinn, Staff Attorney, katelyn@pugetsoundkeeper.org (920) 782-0114

 

Featured Image Credit: Steve Ringman / The Seattle Times