OLYMPIA — State Attorney General Bob Ferguson said the U.S. Navy dumped hazardous waste including copper and zinc, into Puget Sound and must be stopped from doing it again.
Ferguson’s office notified the Navy on Thursday of the state’s intent to join a suit in federal court to ask the Navy to clean up the mess and to require it to stop scraping ships at Navy Base Kitsap on Bremerton and dumping the material in Sinclair Inlet.
The Navy is aware of the AG’s notice on intent to sue, said Navy spokesman Rory O’Connor on Friday afternoon. He referred inquiries to the federal Department of Justice.
Ferguson said that while cleaning a decommissioned aircraft carrier in January 2017, the Navy dumped scraped-off paint into Sinclair Inlet in violation of state and federal laws.
The process released about 50 dump truck loads of solid materials, including copper and zinc, into the water, Ferguson’s office said in a press release. Copper and zinc are toxic to marine life; for example, copper can harm salmon’s ability to navigate to spawning streams or to avoid predators, Ferguson said.
In June 2017, Puget Soundkeeper Alliance, the Washington Environmental Council and the Suquamish Tribe filed a lawsuit against the Navy, asserting that it had violated the federal Clean Water Act by releasing toxic substances into the inlet without a permit while cleaning the hull of a decommissioned aircraft carrier, Ferguson’s office said.
The Attorney General said he told the federal government that he will seek to join the groups’ case if the Navy does not resolve the issue within 60 days.
“The Navy’s longstanding activities at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard have resulted in significant amounts of hazardous waste being released into Sinclair Inlet for more than a century,” Ferguson’s office said.
“Due to the heavy contamination, the EPA considers Sinclair Inlet a Superfund site, and the federal government has spent millions attempting to clean its waters,” the release continued.
“The inlet currently does not meet standards for human recreation, fish consumption or the protection of aquatic life.”