Port of Port Townsend Agrees to Settlement Before Enviro Group Files Suit

By Charlie Bermant, February 28, 2014, Peninsula Daily News

The Port of Port Townsend has settled with an environmental group that threatened to file a lawsuit if certain environmental standards for stormwater management were not met.


On Sept. 17, the Waste Action Project issued a notice of intent to sue for alleged violations of the Clean Water Act, requesting compliance along with $20,000 to support an environmental initiative selected by the group, as well as lawyer’s fees.


“We sent the port a letter because we saw some problems with their stormwater management,” said Greg Wingard, the action project’s executive director.


“They indicated they were already aware of a lot of these problems and were working to fix them, and showed us they intend to be environmentally responsible and work toward their resolution.”


The settlement, approved by port commissioners Wednesday night says the port has done nothing wrong but agrees to 12 measures, several of which the port is already performing, Deputy Port Director Jim Pivarnik said.


In it, the port also agrees to support a Waste Action Project initiative with a $2,000 subsidy along with $14,000 in lawyer’s fees.


Pivarnik said port personnel invited members of the group to port facilities to “show them what we are doing.


“We showed them our process, and they agreed to the smaller settlement.


“This shows that the port is doing the right thing when it comes to stormwater treatment.”


Wingard said his group follows the operations of ports and private entities statewide, contacting those it determines are out of compliance with the Clean Water Act.


The Port of Port Townsend already is instituting actions that exceed the boundaries of the Clean Water Act, he said.


Among the measures the port has agreed to take or continue performing are developing a plan for the removal of a topsoil layer containing metals, installing downspout filters on as many buildings as possible and negotiating agreements to provide roof coating on new leases.


The port also agreed to hire a half-time staff person to work on stormwater management to assist the full-time compliance officer.


Wingard said the expenses needed to implement these measures are deducted from the proposed penalty, which is how $20,000 became $2,000.


Pivarnik said the port decided to settle the matter rather than contest it “because it would have cost us $30,000 in lawyers’ fees to recoup the $14,000.”


Wingard said his group always prefers an out-of-court settlement “because if it goes to a judge, it’s out of either side’s control.”


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