PORT ANGELES — The Port of Port Angeles has agreed to pay a $67,000 stormwater-related fine to the Environmental Protection Agency for violating the federal Clean Water Act.
Commissioners in December unanimously approved the proposed consent agreement that imposes a penalty they described as procedural and administrative that did not entail discharge of pollutants.
The enforcement action is based on a Feb. 13, 2020, National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Compliance Inspection Report by Matthew Vojik of the EPA’s Region 10 Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Division.
Based on Vojik’s inspection, the four violations of the port’s 2015 and 2020 stormwater permit occurred between at least January 2017 through February 2020.
The port failed to identify two stormwater outfalls on a site map and as points of discharge in a sampling plan, according to the agreement.
In the second violation, the port failed to identify them as exempt from monitoring and failed to monitor them between October 2018 and February 2020, according to the consent agreement.
In the third violation, Vojik saw fluid-filled containers outside that were exposed to precipitation.
Port Executive Director Geoff James told commissioners that a 55-gallon drum lacked a secondary container around it. He said Monday the drum was sealed and the outside of the barrel was exposed to precipitation.
In the fourth violation, Vojik said calibration solutions for turbidity meter expired in January 2011 and expired for a pH meter in October 2019.
James said Monday that inspections under the Clean Water Act usually are conducted by the state Department of Ecology (DOE), which issued the port’s Industrial Stormwater general permit in 2014 and 2019.
“That has been delegated from EPA to DOE is my understanding, after talking to other public ports,” he said.
“They have not seen the EPA coming in and doing this type of inspection without some sort of involvement with the Department of Ecology. I’m not saying that it’s not within their authority, I’m saying it’s kind of unique.”
James said he did not know what prompted the inspection.
EPA spokesperson Suzanna Skadowski said in an email the agency will not discuss the proposed agreement until it is proposed for a 30-day public comment period.
An Ecology official could not be reached for comment Monday.
The port discharges stormwater associated with industrial activity, which includes operation of a 30-acre log yard, from multiple outfalls into Port Angeles Harbor, which is undergoing a pollution cleanup process from decades of timber industry activity.
Commissioners agreed to pay the fine, which covers four violations, following a Dec. 14 executive session with port legal council Carolyn Lake of Goodstein Law Group of Tacoma. They discussed it in open session for 2½ minutes.
“We want to emphasize that a lot of this was procedural,” Commissioner Connie Beauvais said.
“I would definitely characterize this as administrative in nature, but we have fixed everything that they have highlighted and made the corrections almost immediately,” port board President Steven Burke said.
In 2015, the state Department of Ecology issued an administrative order requiring the port to submit an engineering report with corrective action related to the permit “to address recurring exceedances of discharge monitoring benchmarks.”
The port must install an Ecology-approved stormwater system by 2023.
Pollutants cannot be discharged into the harbor except as authorized by a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit.
The EPA delegates permitting authority to the state of Washington through the DOE under the Clean Water Act. The EPA assesses penalties under the Clean Water Act.
DOE issued a 2015 stormwater permit in December 2014 that expired in 2019 and a second permit in November 2019 that expires Dec. 31, 2024.
Port commissioners agreed Sept. 28 to settle the EPA’s notice of intent to file an administrative complaint for violation of the Clean Water Act rather than go to court to challenge the notice.
According to the agreement, the port neither admits nor denies the factual allegations in the agreement.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].