Conservation Groups Accuse Washington State Hydroelectric Dam of Polluting

On Tuesday, Citizens for a Healthy Bay and Puget Soundkeeper Alliance filed a Clean Water Act (CWA) lawsuit against defendant Electron Hydro LLC for illegal discharges the company reportedly made into the Puyallup River, a tributary of the Puget Sound. The plaintiffs’ citizen suit seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, the imposition of civil penalties, and an award of costs for Electron’s alleged violations.

The Western District of Washington complaint explains that the conservation groups have representational standing because their members, some of whom live, work, or recreate in the area, have been adversely affected by Electron’s supposed pollution. The illegal discharges, they claim, threaten their members’ interests and impair the Puyallup River, Commencement Bay, and Puget Sound’s waters and the species that rely on them.

The filing recounts that Electron’s hydroelectric dam facility is in Orting, Washington, on the Puyallup River. According to the complaint, in 2016 or 2017, Electron applied to the U.S. Corps of Engineers for permits authorizing the discharge of dredged or fill material associated with Electron’s proposed work to repair various components of its infrastructure.

The plaintiffs claim that the construction failed to comply with permit strictures and resulted in the unlawful discharge of dredge and fill materials. In particular, the filing alleges, Electron violated the CWA by constructing a rock diversion structure and cofferdams at the facility, and by using heavy machinery during construction and maintenance work, among other things.

In addition, Electron has reportedly violated the CWA’s prohibition on heat discharge by adding water to the Puyallup River since March 2016. Finally, Electron purportedly discharged sediments, solids, and dead and dying fish to the Puyallup River and Puget Sound without CWA authorization.

The four-count complaint claims that Electron violated its CWA certification and illegally discharged various liquids and solids from its facility. The conservation groups seek a court order compelling Electron to remediate the environmental harm caused by its actions and requiring the company to send the plaintiffs copies of all reports and other documents sent to state and federal authorities regarding its compliance, among other requests.

The plaintiffs are represented by Kampmeier & Knutsen PLLC and Puget Soundkeeper Alliance by its own counsel.