Snoqualmie says No Raw Sewage Discharged into River, Plans to Appeal Department of Ecology Violation Claims

According to a Washington Department of Ecology (DOE) press release, the City of Snoqualmie is facing a $32,000 DOE fine “for failing to properly prepare for and respond to a power outage at the city’s wastewater treatment plant last fall.”

The City of Snoqualmie disputes the DOE’s claims and is preparing to appeal to the Washington State Pollution Control Hearings Board.

The fine stems from a power outage on Friday, November 15, 2013. A city spokesperson says that outage was was very brief, lasting less than a minute.

The DOE states the outage caused critical equipment to stop working, while a simultaneously malfunctioning alarm system failed to alert plant operators to that outage.

Additionally, DOE charges that the plant’s backup chlorine disinfection system was not in place and that operators didn’t know about the

City of Snoqualmie Wastewater Treatment Facility
City of Snoqualmie Wastewater Treatment Facility

outage until the following evening. At that time they re-started treatment equipment and monitored the wastewater effluent. The city notified the Department of Ecology of the issue on Monday.

The DOE states that the chain of events allowed for approximately 420,000 gallons of partially treated effluent (with excessive levels of bacteria and turbidity) to be discharged into the Snoqualmie River. [Effluent is wastewater, treated or untreated, that flows out of a treatment plant.]

The DOE charges that these events over the weekend of November 15th violated three conditions of the City of Snoqualmie’s water quality permit and thus issued the $32,000 fine on May 22, 2014.

The city, though, feels that the claim that it violated procedures and the ensuing penalty was wrongly issued. It will appeal the violation claim, stating that the health of citizens and the environment is its highest priority. The city is confident the appeal will prevail.

According to Joan Pliego, City of Snoqualmie Public Information Officer, “The City of Snoqualmie has numerous facts disputing the Department of Ecology’s claim regarding wastewater released into the Snoqualmie River on November 15, 2013. These facts will be included in an appeal by the city to the DOE.”

Pliego added, “There was never any raw sewage discharged as erroneously reported by the media. The wastewater had been disinfected within limits of the [water quality] permit. Regular weekly bacterial testing shows that the plant consistently achieves levels that are significantly lower than the limits set by the DOE. The City is absolutely confident that the wastewater discharged during the brief power outage did not pose any immediate or long-term threat to public health.” 

It is not known at this time when the Pollution Control Hearings Board will hear the city’s appeal to the $32,000 penalty.

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