CWA Complaint Filed Against Export Company

Columbia Riverkeeper (CRK), on behalf of itself and its members, brought a Clean Water Act (CWA) lawsuit against Kalama Export Company, LLC (KEC) accusing it of discharging pollutants illegally and failing to comply with the strictures of the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES). Monday’s complaint, filed pursuant to the citizen suit provision of the CWA, seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, the imposition of civil penalties, and the award of CRK’s litigation costs.

The Western District of Washington submission stated that defendant KEC allegedly owns and operates a grain export facility in Kalama, Wash. The plaintiff contended that KEC’s facility, “discharges stormwater and pollutants associated with industrial activity via stormwater conveyances into the Columbia River and its tributaries, as well as into protected wetlands directly adjacent to the Columbia River.”

According to the complaint, CRK is a State of Washington non-profit with over 16,000 members, “many of whom reside in the vicinity of waters affected by KEC’s discharges of pollutants.” Its stated mission is “to restore and protect the water quality of the Columbia River and all life connected to it, from the headwaters to the Pacific Ocean.”

CRK contended that KEC’s facility has a number of catch basins and stormwater collection pipes, in addition to “unreported outfalls from the facility’s wharf that discharge stormwater and other pollutants to the Columbia River and the adjacent protected wetlands.” Though KEC has received numerous “industrial stormwater general permits” via the state’s  NPDES program administrator, “Ecology,” it has reportedly committed repeated and ongoing violations of “effluent standards or limitations,” including NPDES permit conditions. For example, the complaint described KEC-collected water quality samples taken in 2016 and 2017 that showed discharge above permissible levels for both turbidity and zinc.

Specifically, KEC has supposedly violated various discharge regulations and permitting requirements by failing to comply with “water quality standards, by failing to implement (best management practices) to control water quality, by not establishing an adequate stormwater pollution prevention plan, by not collecting quarterly samples, or analyzing quarterly samples once collected, by not complying with visual monitoring requirements, and by failing to submit discharge monitoring reports.”

Accordingly, CRK alleged two counts of CWA violations and asked the court to declare that KEC has and continues to violate its permits. The plaintiff also sought an injunction requiring KEC to comply with federally imposed permitting standards, to give CRK a copy of reports and documents it files with Ecology regarding permit compliance, and to take remedial action regarding environmental harm it has caused, among other things. The filing also sought the assessment of civil penalties and an award of CRK’s attorneys’ fees and costs.

CRK is represented by Smith & Lowney and in-house counsel.