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Puyallup Tribe plans to sue Electron Hydro for polluting Puyallup River with crumb rubber

The Tribe claims the company intentionally violated the Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act.

PUYALLUP, Wash — The Puyallup Tribe has given notice that it intends to sue Electron Hydro, the owners of the Electron Dam on the Puyallup River, for improperly using artificial turf and releasing yards of the material and crumb rubber into the Puyallup River. 

The Tribe claims the company intentionally violated the Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act. It plans to sue Electron Hydro, and the collection of corporations that own, finance, and control the hydropower company, in federal court in the next 60 days, according to a statement from the Tribe on Friday. 

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.

Puyallup Tribal Chairman Bill Sterud said the Tribe is outraged that artificial turf, which contains potentially toxic materials, was placed in the river.

“It’s hard to imagine a more terrible idea,” Sterud said in a statement. “The choice to place artificial turf in the water put our river, fish and even the Puget Sound at risk. I feel like we are living in a nightmare. We must hold the company responsible for these careless actions. We must fight for our fish, and our sacred waters.”

KING 5 reached out to Electron Hydro for a comment regarding the impending lawsuit, but the company said it had no comment. A spokesperson via email did say:

"The current work is permitted and Electron is complying with all requirements. The County has directed an independent environmental compliance monitor that attends the site daily and reports to County.

"The Electron “Diversion Repair, Spillway Replacement and Bank Protection” project received all necessary permits in August, 2018. The accidental discharge of synthetic materials resulted in the stop work orders and correction notices. Electron is complying with all agency correction orders and is performing necessary work for seasonal close out.

"The Puyallup Tribe of Indians has previously supported the project to perform work necessary to install sediment and fish exclusion facilities at the intake. The current work is necessary to protect the integrity of the facilities and provide a stable river channel configuration and is permitted."

Pierce County has called for the removal of the 116-year-old dam that sits upstream of Orting, outside Mt. Rainier National Park.