The math to ballpark how much a lumber company accused of polluting Tacoma’s Hylebos Waterway could be fined is like a bad SAT question with no easy answer.
But court records indicate it’s a lot.
The Environmental Protection Agency filed a complaint in federal court against the Manke Lumber Co. this month, alleging its 35-acre facility on the Tideflats racked up many violations since at least 2012.
A News Tribune message left at the company’s office wasn’t returned, and the EPA referred questions about the complaint to Department of Justice spokesman Wyn Hornbuckle, who declined to comment on the pending litigation.
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According to the complaint, filed April 6 in U.S. District Court in Tacoma:
The EPA found that stormwater and wastewater at Manke’s facility comes in contact with sawdust, chemicals and metals. For example, runoff from when workers wash vehicles is polluted, as is water that cools radiators and brakes on machinery.
In addition, the facility has violated the Clean Water Act by sending the polluted water into the Hylebos without a proper permit to do so.
Each day there was discharge is a separate violation, with a penalty of up to $37,500 for each violation after Jan. 12, 2009, through Nov. 2, 2015, the EPA says. After that, the penalty goes up to $52,414 a day.
The complaint doesn’t state what that adds up to.
On top of that fine, the complaint cites similar penalties for other violations the EPA found, such as:
▪ Every day the the company had oil at the facility without a plan to prevent and respond to oil spills (which it’s never had).
▪ Failing to submit complete, accurate annual reports to the state Department of Ecology from 2012 to 2014.
▪ 16 times workers failed to sample discharges.
▪ 16 times they failed to properly analyze pH samples.
▪ Five times workers left a Dumpster uncovered.
▪ 48 times workers failed to do monthly inspections of the facility and document them.
▪ Three times they failed to follow through with “corrective actions,” a condition of a permit the company did have.
▪ Eight times they failed to properly implement a plan to prevent the pollution.
▪ Three times they didn’t include that plan in employee training.
▪ Three times they failed to sign and certify the pollution plan.
▪ Two times workers failed to inspect containers to prevent oil spills.
▪ Two times they didn’t properly contain equipment to prevent oil spills.
▪ 13 times they didn’t have proper liquid level sensing systems.
The EPA’s complaint asks the court to fine the company, up to the maximum allowed, and order it to get in line with the Clean Water Act.
In addition to Tacoma, Manke has offices in Sumner and Shelton. Its 400 Pierce County workers made it the county’s 52nd-largest employer in 2016, according to the Economic Development Board for Tacoma-Pierce County.