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Electron Hydro criminally charged for polluting Puyallup River with plastic sports turf

The Washington Department of Ecology fined the hydropower company $500,000 in 2021 after the Puyallup Tribe sued over the pollution.

PUYALLUP, Wash. — Editor's note: The above video on the Washington Department of Ecology fining Electron Hydro originally aired June 9, 2021.

Electron Hydro and its CEO are now facing more than 30 criminal charges after the company was fined in 2021 for polluting the Puyallup River with plastic sports turf.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed 36 gross misdemeanor charges in Pierce County Superior Court against the hydropower company and its Chief Operating Officer Thom A. Fischer. The charges include violations of the state’s Water Pollution Control Act, Shoreline Management Act and Pierce County Code. 

In October 2020, the Puyallup Tribe claimed that Electron Hydro, the hydropower company behind the Electron Dam, polluted the Puyallup river with crumb rubber from artificial turf, a claim they later sued the company over in federal court.

Roughly eight months later, the Washington Department of Ecology announced it would fine the company more than $500,000 for the violation.

The pollution was caused by an Electron Hydro construction site that was doing work in-stream and using the artificial turf to create a bypass channel to divert the river away from the site beginning on July 28, 2020, according to the department.

The goal of the construction was to replace the company’s diversion dam and water intake structure, which dates back to 1903.

Pieces of sports turf were found up to 21 miles downstream, according to the Department of Ecology, and deposits of ground-up tire rubber used as padding for the turf were believed to go roughly 41 miles downstream all the way to the river’s mouth and possibly into Commencement Bay in Tacoma. 

If convicted, Fischer faces a maximum penalty of 90 or 364 days in jail for each count, depending upon the charge. Fischer could also face fines of up to $1,000, $5,000 or $10,000 for each count, depending upon the charge. Electron Hydro faces a maximum penalty of $250,000 for each of the 36 counts.