Suquamish Tribe files intent to sue U.S. Navy for repeated sewage spills

The Tribe gave military officials 60-days notice of their intent to file a lawsuit

  • Tuesday, June 11, 2019 1:58pm
  • News

On Tuesday, the Suquamish Tribe announced its intention to sue the U.S. Navy for repeatedly releasing raw sewage into the Puget Sound.

In a letter dated June 10, the Tribe gave military officials 60-days notice of their intent to file a lawsuit under the Clean Water Act, which prohibits discharging pollutants without a permit.

“According to public records currently available to the Tribe, the Navy discharged hundreds of thousands of gallons of untreated sewage from Naval Base Kitsap in repeated incidents over the past five years and beyond,” the press release states.

“The waters of the Sinclair Inlet and the entire Salish Sea are the Tribe’s most treasured resource. We are obliged to protect these waters, not only for us but for all who rely on them for work, recreation, and identity,” said the Suquamish Tribe’s Chairman Leonard Forsman.

“We ask the Navy to uphold the highest standards of protection for Liberty Bay, Dyes inlet, Sinclair Inlet, Port Orchard Passage, and all the water ways that support both human and marine life. We call on the Navy to invest in the infrastructure necessary to support their operations.”

In an email sent on Tuesday, Naval Base Kitsap Public Affairs Officer Jake Chappelle said the Navy was aware of the Tribe’s notice of intent to sue, but would not provide any comment on the matter.

“We are aware of the Suquamish Tribe’s notice of intent to sue the Navy,” Chappelle said. “The Navy cannot comment on pending litigation.”

The 60-day notice was addressed to Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, Navy Secretary Richard Spencer, Naval Base Kitsap Commander Capt. Edward Schrader, and Puget Sound Naval Shipyard Commander Capt. Howard Markle. The Tribe notified the Navy that it is responsible for at least eleven significant illegal discharges of untreated sewage into Tribe’s treaty-protected fishing areas.

“We value and respect the service of our local Sailors and Marines, and we treasure the relationship we enjoy with the wider U.S. Military and veteran communities,” Forsman said. “However, the dumping of sewage waste into Puget Sound must stop.”

Past sewage discharges by the Navy have repeatedly resulted in the posting of health advisories and the closure of beaches in Kitsap County, some of which are used by Suquamish tribal members to harvest shellfish.

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