PORT ANGELES — Port of Port Angeles commissioners have approved spending $26,500 in general funds to settle a lawsuit that alleged the port had violated a state stormwater permit issued under the federal Clean Water Act.
Commissioners Jim Hallett, John Calhoun and Colleen McAleer voted unanimously Tuesday to pay the settlement rather than fight the Tacoma Federal District Court claim filed by King County-based Waste Action Project.
The environmental group had asserted that the port had violated the law by exceeding benchmark zinc and copper levels in stormwater that the port discharges into the Boat Haven marina inside Port Angeles Harbor when it rains.
The port’s stormwater discharges have exceeded allowable levels of zinc and copper since the permit was issued in 2011.
Eight times allowable average
According to the lawsuit, which quoted discharge monitoring reports that the port files with the state Department of Ecology, the seasonal average for copper concentration from 2011-12 was 400 micrograms per liter, eight times the allowable average of 50 micrograms per liter.
The seasonal average for zinc concentration for the same period was 267.5 micrograms per liter, three times the allowable seasonal average of 85 micrograms per liter.
The settlement amount consists of $16,500 to cover Waste Action Project’s legal fees to sue the port and $10,000 that will be paid to the Feiro Marine Life Center to help restore Peabody Creek in lieu of civil fines of up to $37,500 a day for each violation.
Port officials said they were working with Ecology on a stormwater solution when Waste Action Project notified them the group planned to file suit.
The port had budgeted $100,000 in 2014 to address the issue but expects to spend about half that by eliminating the discharge option altogether, port Director of Engineering Chris Hartman said Tuesday.
Rather than flow into marina waters, stormwater will circulate through a rain garden in which zinc- and copper-laden water will flow over plants and into the soil.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at [email protected]