By Steve Rizer
Is the federal government cracking down on construction-related stormwater violations? Perhaps. In one of the first stormwater pollution criminal cases brought in the United States, a Sumner, Wash., developer recently was sentenced to prison for a felony violation of the Clean Water Act (United States v. Stowe, No. CR12-512RBL [W.D. Wash.]). It is a case that prompted U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan to proclaim, “This prison sentence shows we will not allow violators to think they can simply pay money later for a crime they commit today. Today they understand that the price also includes their liberty.”
In the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington in Tacoma, Bryan Stowe, president and co-owner of Stowe Construction Inc., was sentenced to six months in prison, one year of supervised release, and a $300,000 fine for knowingly violating a national pollution discharge elimination permit. In addition, he will make a $100,000 payment to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation for environmental projects targeting resources impacted by the illegal discharges.
Bryan Stowe admitted to knowingly violating the Construction General Stormwater Permit for the Rainier Park of Industry project, located on West Valley Highway in Sumner. Permit violations contributed to two landslides at the site in 2010 and 2011. Both slides forced closure of the West Valley Highway. Stowe Construction was sentenced to a $350,000 criminal fine. Both Bryan Stowe and his company will be subject to a court-imposed stormwater compliance plan for all current and future development sites.
Stormwater is one of the largest threats to the health of Puget Sound, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington. “Rainwater runoff from developed properties and construction sites contribute a significant amount of [pollution] to the wetlands, streams, and rivers that comprise watersheds feeding into Puget Sound. Runoff from construction sites in particular can compromise the essential filtering functions of wetlands if developers fail to implement and maintain required measures to minimize and prevent pollutants from leaving the site.”