Home Water flow Battle Ground contractor fined $136,000 for water quality violation

Battle Ground contractor fined $136,000 for water quality violation

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Rick Bannan / [email protected]

A Battle Ground-based contractor received fines from the Washington State Department of Ecology totaling $136,000 for a dozen violations over a period of nearly a year, the department said.

On January 26, Ecology announced that it had fined Hamilton Excavating LLC for repeated violations of water quality and stormwater conditions during construction on the Highland Terrace subdivision in La Center. The subdivision is located on the Northwest Pacific Highway north of Northwest Larson Drive.

The fines stem from polluted stormwater that spilled from the construction site, impacting neighboring property and the East Fork Lewis River.

Beginning in November 2020, the yard received inspections from La Center and ecology staff, a department account said. During the first inspection, Ecology discovered that the construction’s storm water was draining into a ditch that empties into a tributary of the East Fork Lewis River. One test showed turbidity above 1,000 nephelometric turbidity units (NTU), which was too high to get an accurate reading and well above baseline levels.

The turbidity was the result of “multiple violations of permit conditions”, according to the account. The November 2020 inspection showed that Hamilton failed to submit discharge monitoring reports, failed to notify Ecology of a high sediment discharge, had insufficient sediment controls, and improperly stored potential pollutants from the rainy waters. The site also included unstable ground and canals.

A month later, an inspection showed improvement in turbidity, but at levels still above baseline, according to the account. This inspection showed that Hamilton lacked documentation in required plans and records, had insufficient sediment controls, and inadequate soil and channel stabilization.

During an inspection in March, Ecology found that the continued turbidity was due to poor management of stormwater infrastructure, according to the account. This inspection and that of the previous month resulted in fines of $5,000, with the exception of the last, which Hamilton paid.

City of La Center staff became involved in inspecting the site in October 2021, according to the story, after the city received several runoff complaints along the Northwest Pacific Highway. This inspection determined that water was being pumped through a manhole into the roadside ditch and that erosion had occurred on the destabilized soils.

A few days later, La Center City engineer Anthony Cooper returned to the site and found damage from storm water drainage at the construction site of a nearby property. The next day, the city told Hamilton to stop its discharge, stabilize the eroding soils, and asked him to follow green advice.

A final inspection by Ecology at the end of October again showed a number of permit violations related to erosion control.

Ecology and the city provided technical assistance to Hamilton on several occasions during the inspection period, the account states. Ecology’s analysis showed that none of the breaches were likely to pose a risk to public health, although there was a possibility of environmental harm.

The East Fork Lewis River watershed is home to Endangered Species Act listed fish, including rainbow trout, coho, chum and fall chinook, according to the Ecology release. Runoff from construction sites can carry sediments, chemicals and debris that can harm aquatic life and reduce water quality. The ministry noted that the watershed was a focus of the East Fork Lewis River Partnership in an effort to improve water quality.

Hamilton Excavating LLC has 30 days to appeal the penalty to the Pollution Control Hearings Board, the statement said.