The owner of an industrial vehicle wash company was in court Wednesday, accused of dumping acidic wastewater into Tacoma’s sewer system and using water from the city’s fire hydrant system.
Ryan James Lewis pleaded not guilty at arraignment to charges of reckless endangerment, violation of the state’s hazardous waste management act, violation of the state’s water pollution control act and two counts of first-degree defrauding a public utility.
Court Commissioner Meagan Foley ordered him released on his own recognizance.
The state Attorney General’s Office said Lewis has owned Cleaner Pressure Washing on the Tacoma Tideflats since July 2011.
A phone number listed for the business online and for Lewis in court records had been disconnected when The News Tribune called Wednesday, and court records did not list an attorney for him.
According to charging papers:
Lewis has gotten four warnings, two notices of violations and three cease-and-desist orders from the city in connection with the business at 1820 Portland Ave.
A little more than a year after the company started, the city tried to get the company to comply with water quality requirements, and Lewis got a permit in 2014 to discharge wastewater into the sewer system.
In January 2015, an investigator found puddles of acidic water around the business, and, in May 2015, saw an employee fall into a basin of hydrofluoric acid. The investigator helped the worker wash out his eyes in a nearby bathroom.
The state Department of Labor and Industry fined Lewis $7,000 for the incident. The department says he hasn’t paid the fine.
An employee told an investigator that in summer 2015, the city shut down the business because acidic wastewater wasn’t properly treated before it was discharged.
When Lewis learned of the closure, the employee said, he ordered workers to keep the company open anyway.
The worker said there were several times when the water was more acidic than the permit allowed, but when he told Lewis, he kept discharging it into the city’s sewer system.
The worker said he’d also seen the company dump wastewater on the ground when it was supposed to be taken off-site for disposal.
In January, a city worker saw the business take water from a fire hydrant. That same month, when Lewis reported his 2003 Chevrolet van stolen to Federal Way police, he listed a fire hydrant adapter kit as one of the items that had been inside, according to court records.