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Feds tell Puyallup River dam owner to clean up after crumb rubber was released into river

The release happened in July after crews working on the Electron Dam used artificial turf as padding material to divert the river away from the worksite.

PUYALLUP, Wash. — Federal officials are demanding owners of a dam devise a plan to clean up their mess, after crews wrongly installed artificial turf in the project, releasing sections of the material and crumb rubber into the Puyallup River.

The release happened at the end of July after crews working on the Electron Dam on the Puyallup River used artificial turf as a padding material under plastic sheeting in the channel to divert the river away from their work area. 

But high flows ripped the sheeting, sending several hundred yards of the turf downriver, along with an estimated 4-6 cubic yards of crumb rubber, according to a consultant’s report prepared for the Tollhouse Energy Company, of Bellingham. A total of 1,792 yards of turf remain installed in the bypass channel, according to that report.

On Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers sent a letter to Electron Hydro, telling the company to come up with a plan for removing the remaining and released turf, as well as the crumb rubber. The Corps previously issued a Stop Work order for the dam project itself, pending this cleanup.

RELATED: Dam project releases rubber particles into Puyallup River, raising concerns for salmon

The Corps, which issued a permit for the project, said artificial turf was not an appropriate material. Both the Corps and the Washington Department of Ecology said the company did not initially notify them of the release.

The Puyallup Tribe has expressed concern for endangered Chinook salmon, which are returning to spawn in the Puyallup River. The tribe learned of the rubber and turf release from a video on social media and began to raise alarms about it. During a visit to the Puyallup River Tuesday, crumb rubber accumulation was still visible on the river bank miles downstream.

The Corps also told Electron Hydro to come up with a plan to stabilize the worksite through the winter, ensure operation of the fish ladder, and plan to continuously monitor the ladder, water quality, and stabilization status.

The Corps noted the company continues to be out of compliance with parts of the Endangered Species Act and gave a deadline for these plans of five days from Sept. 2.

A spokesperson for the Corps said the company has indicated it wants more time to respond. The Puyallup Tribe said they oppose an extension, telling KING 5 they have no reason to believe it’s necessary.

The century-old Electron Dam, which is being modernized, sits several miles upriver from the town of Orting, outside the boundary of Mt. Rainier National park, where the Puyallup River begins. It diverts water into a flume, which is channeled to power 20,000 homes.