Washington State Fines County DOT, Contractor for Stormwater Violations

The Washington stated Department of Ecology (Ecology) announced on Oct. 10 that the King County Department of Transportation (KCDOT) and its contractor, Wilder Construction Co., have been fined $12,000 for violating a construction stormwater permit by allowing water, which had come into contact with freshly placed concrete for the new Tolt Bridge, to reach the Snoqualmie River.

The permit violations occurred last February during construction of the bridge across the Snoqualmie River, south of Carnation. The concrete placement for a bridge support occurred, as designed, in a wetland area commonly used by juvenile coho and other salmon and trout species. Until it has cured properly, freshly-placed ready-mix concrete can make surface water caustic and harmful to fish and other aquatic life.

Recent flooding had created standing water within the wooden concrete form. Workers placed concrete directly into the formwork, which displaced the standing water. While some erosion control measures had been installed, they were insufficient to contain the flow of water to the immediate work area. Highly alkaline water entered into the surrounding wetland area and reached the river's open water.

"We recognize the high, flowing water made conditions difficult that day," said Kevin Fitzpatrick, Ecology's regional water quality supervisor, "but there are methods to contain contaminated water in such situations. When the need arises, those pollution control methods around the work area need to be in place."

Fitzpatrick added that the county and its contractor have improved environmental practices on the project since last winter's incident.

In response to Ecology's action, KCDOT expressed regret over the incident and emphasized the importance environmental regulations play in protecting the environment.

"Our field inspector discovered the discharge, immediately reported it to Ecology, and quickly began efforts to contain it," said Rick Brater, KCDOT engineering services section manager. "Ecology staff arrived at the project site after the concrete pour was completed and suggested additional methods to contain the discharge. The contractor's personnel immediately implemented Ecology's recommendations."

Brater added KCDOT staff also provided monitoring data and other documentation to assist Ecology's investigation.

"Wilder Construction shares the concerns of Ecology and KCDOT for the preservation of critical habitats and environmental compliance," said Wilder's Everett Branch Manager Joe Spink. "Incidents such as this will serve to focus our attention on improving our performance and environmental stewardship."

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