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NW Fishletter #390, February 4, 2019

[12] Douglas County PUD Denies Lawsuit Claims

Douglas County PUD has asked a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit, where an environmental group claims it is allowing unpermitted pollutants to be discharged into the Columbia River from Wells Dam.

In the PUD's Jan. 7 answer to the claims in Columbia Riverkeeper v. Douglas County Public Utility District et al., it says the suit should be dismissed because the Washington Department of Ecology has issued a water quality certification permit for Wells Dam under the Clean Water Act, making a pollution discharge permit unnecessary.

Riverkeeper alleges that Douglas discharged pollutants, including oils, greases and other lubricants, which require a water pollution permit under the Clean Water Act. The group notified Douglas, Chelan and Grant county PUDs in September that it intended to sue for failing to get pollution permits to account for leaking oil and other lubricants at their mid-Columbia River dams. Riverkeeper then filed a lawsuit against only Douglas County PUD in December.

The group previously filed lawsuits against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation which resulted in agreements by those agencies to obtain permits for nine dams on the Snake and Columbia rivers.

In its reply, Douglas denies it has any obligation to obtain a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination Systems permit to operate Wells Dam. The PUD admits that it has experienced "isolated and non-recurring accidents at the Wells Dam which have led to the one-time discharge of small amounts of pollutants into the Columbia River that were recaptured," but denies that similar accidents or discharges are likely to occur in the future. And a NPDES permit "is not appropriate or required for accidental discharges," the reply states.

The PUD has requested a jury trial in the lawsuit, filed on Dec. 11 in U.S. District Court in Eastern Washington. -K.C. Mehaffey

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NW Fishletter is produced by NewsData LLC.
Publisher/Editor-in-Chief: Mark Ohrenschall, Editor: K.C. Mehaffey
Phone: (206) 285-4848 Fax: (206) 281-8035

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