Puyallup Tribe sues Electron Dam owner over artificial turf pollution

A piece of artificial turf in the Puyallup River. (Courtesy of the Puyallup Tribe)

With the calendar ending a year in which the electron dam owner came under fire during a construction project on Puyallup, the Puyallup tribe is suing Electron Hydro, LLC.

The Puyallup tribe has filed a federal lawsuit against Electron Hydro for alleged violations of environmental protection law.

During a construction project last summer, Electron Hydro installed more than 2,000 square meters of artificial turf in the river without a permit. Part of the turf crumbled into tiny pieces of crumbly rubber and flowed downstream into Commencement Bay.

Lisa Anderson, environmental attorney for the Puyallup Tribe, said there was “no way we can get that crumb rubber back”.

The proposed lawsuit over pollution of the Puyallup River is increasing

“Even in the past few weeks we are still seeing large patches of lawn that have been washed away. If you walk along the Puyallup River, you will find pieces of green plastic grass that are now only covered with green plastic strands “, described Anderson.” It’s embedded in the sediment. There is still so much there. “

The turf is still being analyzed, but it is believed that it could cause serious harm to animals living in and around the river. These include the migratory chinook salmon – an important food source for the endangered southern orcas.

“It is believed that some, if not all, of this crumb rubber is made from recycled tires, which is the only industry standard for turf. This could have an impact on orcas and other wildlife in the area other than fish, including moose and offshore eating things, “Anderson said.

The artificial turf incident is not the only environmental disaster mentioned in the suit. In a statement, the Puyallup Tribe said Electron Hydro “stranded, suffocated and pulverized thousands of adults and juveniles” during construction last summer.

While cleaning the lawn, Electron Hydro built a rock dam without a permit and was unable to use the fish ladder during the autumn hike. Anderson said they may have permanently damaged the fish ladder.

“Due to the construction work being done that summer, this fish ladder may not have been operational for the entire Chinook run of the fall, leaving Chinook salmon in the Puyallup River without prime spawning grounds,” said Anderson. “So that’s going to have an impact on the population … and we don’t know how well this fish ladder will work overall in the future.”

Anderson said Electron Hydro has historically ignored permits and environmental regulations.

“It is time for the effects on fish to stop. You have violated federal law throughout the time of your ownership. So we’re trying to stop these effects, ”said Anderson. “That would mean that no water and no fish have to be diverted. The rock dam itself must come out as well, and any other improper fill that affects the fish must be removed, and the fish ladder must be operational and verifiable at all times. ”

The Puyallup Tribe and the Pierce County Executive have both stated that the dam should be removed altogether, on the grounds that it does far more harm than good.

“We waited for them to be compliant and no longer affecting fish, and they didn’t,” said Anderson. “In the moment this dam exists, there is no way for them to operate and allow fish to coexist safely.”

Anderson pointed out that the dam has no local customers as Puget Sound Energy is no longer buying electricity from Electron Hydro.

Electron Hydro is currently facing two further federal environmental lawsuits.

In a statement to KIRO Radio, Electron Hydro said their construction project “will meet all the requirements of the federal law on endangered species for fish protection and will contribute significantly to salmon production”.

“Electron Hydro has already built a world-class Chinook acclimatization facility below the bypass, of which 320,000 Chinook smolt were released from the Puyallup Tribe into the Puyallup River last May,” the company said.

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