Ecology settles with contractor for $135,000 water quality fine


A Portland-based contractor has settled with the Washington State Department of Ecology over a $135,000 penalty for water quality violations at a Ridgefield residential construction site.

On Dec. 12, Ecology announced they had settled with 1108 South Hillhurst Road LLC over violations at the Vista Ridge Planned Urban Development. The contractor will pay the $135,000 penalty in $13,500 installments that start in February.

The contractor received the fine in June for not meeting requirements of a stormwater permit for construction work at the development. Ecology stated between September 2021 and February, its inspectors found seven instances of polluted construction stormwater, which made its way to a tributary of Gee Creek. The contractor also violated permitting because they did not submit discharge monitoring reports, had insufficient sediment controls and unstabilized soils.

Gee Creek’s position as a tributary to the Columbia River makes it a potential home for a number of salmon species, Ecology stated. Stormwater runoff from construction sites can carry sediments, chemicals and debris that can harm aquatic life and overall reduce water quality. 

According to a notice of penalty document, a Dec. 13, 2021, inspection discovered turbid stormwater breaching a stormwater pond into a course leading to Gee Creek and stormwater being pumped from another pond also leading to the creek. In both instances, the stormwater had a turbidity above 1,000 nephelometric turbidity units (NTU), which was too high to get an exact reading and well above benchmark levels, the notice stated.

An inspection a week later noted limited changes were made to address water quality, though the worksite was still in violation of state law and permit requirements. That inspection discovered soils on the site weren’t adequately stabilized, leading to erosion which generated the turbid water.

On Jan. 6, the City of Ridgefield contacted Ecology to let the department know of continued erosion at the site. By early February, inspections showed construction stormwater stopped discharging from the site, though later in the month an inspection turned up another instance of highly turbid runoff coming from the site. That discharge stopped in March, according to the notice.

Ecology requires sites like the Vista Ridge subdivision to be covered under a Construction Stormwater General Permit and to comply with the permit’s requirements, the department’s announcement stated. Penalty payments to the department are put into Washington state’s Coastal Protection Fund, which provides grants to public agencies and Tribes for water quality restoration projects.

1108 South Hillhurst Road LLC’s settlement is the second time a contractor in Clark County has settled with Ecology this year. In July, Rostchy Inc. settled for $101,000 on an original $131,000 fine over water quality and permitting violations at a development near the corner of Northwest 179th Street and Northwest 11th Avenue. Construction stormwater from that site discharged into Packard Creek, the department stated.

The county has seen three triple-digit fines on construction sites in 2022. In January, Ecology fined Hamilton Excavating LLC for $136,000 for similar violations at a development in La Center where turbid stormwater discharge impacted the East Fork Lewis River.