State AG: Navy released ‘50 dump truck loads’ of toxic pollutants into Sinclair Inlet in 2017

Attorney General Bob Ferguson threatened a citizens’ lawsuit if the Navy does not address its alleged “ongoing violations” of the Clean Water Act.

State Attorney General Bob Ferguson warned the U.S. Navy this week of a potential lawsuit for alleged ongoing violations of the Clean Water Act related to the dumping of toxic pollutants in Sinclair Inlet.

In a letter sent Thursday to high-ranking military officials including Naval Base Kitsap Captain Edward “Alan” Schrader, Ferguson accused the Navy of illegally releasing “fifty dump truck loads of solid waste” into Puget Sound during the in-water hull cleaning of the 60,000-ton decommissioned aircraft carrier the ex-USS Independence in January 2017, while the vessel was moored at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.

“The cleaning and scraping of the hull released several pollutants, including copper and zinc, into the waters and sediment of Sinclair Inlet,” a press release from the office of the attorney general states. “Copper and zinc are highly toxic to marine life and affect the health of the entire aquatic food chain, including salmon and orcas.”

The Navy began in-water hull scraping of the Independence around Jan. 6, 2017, according to the letter. The process uses rotary brushes and high-powered jets of water to “pulverize, scrape and blast debris from the hull.”

The EPA recommends hull cleaning be done in dry dock, or using “other pollution containment technology,” a recommendation the Navy did not heed, Ferguson said.

Copper-based paints are used specifically to prevent marine organisms from growing on the hulls of boats. Copper is toxic to marine life when found in high concentrations, according to the EPA.

In his letter, Ferguson expressed concern that the same practice of in-water hull scraping would occur with the ex-USS Kitty Hawk, an aircraft carrier decommissioned in 2009 that is currently in plans to be towed and dismantled.

Ferguson threatened to join an ongoing 2017 lawsuit brought by the Puget Soundkeeper Alliance and other environmental and tribal groups as a plaintiff if the Navy does not address the alleged violations within 60 days.

Ferguson asked the Navy to remove the debris scraped off the ex-Independence and take “any other action necessary to stop and remediate the ongoing discharge of pollutants” caused by in-water hull cleaning.

“If the Navy fails to remedy its ongoing CWA violations,” Ferguson wrote, “Washington intends to intervene as a plaintiff” seeking injunctive relief.

A spokesperson for the Navy declined a request for comment Friday citing ongoing litigation, and referred all questions to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Gabe Stutman is a reporter with the Kitsap News Group. Follow him on Twitter @kitsapgabe.

More in News

City Council passes ordinance to curb illicit massage businesses

The ordinance will make it difficult for illicit businesses to meet state license requirements

The Kitsap County Road Report

Selected county-owned roads will be impacted by repair and maintenance work Aug. 26-30

Kitsap County Fair kicks off with plenty of entertainment and exhibits

Kitsap County Fair & Stampede has free admission this year

Felony warrant issued for residential burglary suspect

Robert Lee Nicoson is also wanted on heroin possession warrant

Level 2 sex offender wanted on warrant

Douglas James Hobart, 30, has failed to register his whereabouts

Poulsbo City Hall. (File photo)
Park: Poulsbo to be the first city to test new legislation

ANative American man was shot and killed in Poulsbo July 3 by… Continue reading

Rock the Cure fundraiser is Friday at Silverdale Beach Hotel

100 percent of proceeds support Dr. Jim Olson’s neuro-oncology research

Gov. Jay Inslee.
Gov. Jay Inslee drops presidential bid and seeks a third term as governor

On MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show Wednesday night, Governor Jay Inslee announced he… Continue reading

NKSD exploring ways to boost enrollment

In 2017-2018, 505 students were released to other school districts while 145 entered NKSD

Most Read