Environmental Organization Claims Railroad Company is Polluting Puget Sound

On Wednesday, Puget Soundkeeper Alliance (PSA), a Washington environmental non-profit organization, filed a complaint in the Western District of Washington against the Union Pacific Railroad Company alleging it has consistently violated the Clean Water Act (CWA) and its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit at its railcar storage and maintenance facility. 

The organization, which “is dedicated to protecting and preserving Puget Sound including all waters flowing into Puget Sound and adjacent lands,” said it filed the lawsuit on behalf of itself and its members, purporting that at least one member has been injured by the alleged violations. The complaint claimed that the defendant’s pollutant discharges, including stormwater discharge, has had a negative impact on “aquatic species and wildlife that (the) Plaintiff’s members observe, study, and enjoy.” It also said that they are concerned about potential impacts to human health. 

The plaintiff said it is harmed and its concerns “are aggravated” because the railroad company reportedly has not recorded information about its discharges and collected stormwater samples, as it is required to do. The complaint claimed the defendant has not completed recordkeeping and reporting requirements, which are necessary under the CWA and its NPDES permit. “As a result, Plaintiff is deprived of information necessary to properly serve its members by providing information and taking appropriate action to advance its mission. Plaintiff’s efforts to educate and advocate for greater environmental protection for the benefit of its members are also precluded. Finally, Plaintiff and the public are deprived of information that influences members of the public to become members of Soundkeeper, thereby reducing Soundkeeper’s membership numbers.” 

The complaint alleged that the discharges from the facility are polluting the waters in the state, particularly the Duwamish River and Elliott Bay, which are used for recreational activities. The filing requests that the court issue a judgement that the Union Pacific Railroad Company has violated the CWA and its permit, enjoin the defendant from continuing to operate its facility with these alleged violations, and pay daily civil penalties for each violation. The plaintiff also asked to be included in the defendant’s creation and implementation of a Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan. 

The plaintiff is represented by Smith & Lowney, PLLC.