POULSBO – Alarmed by the recent spill of up to 4,000 gallons of domestic wastewater from the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard into Sinclair Inlet last weekend, the Suquamish Tribe released a statement Thursday excoriating the U.S. Navy and demanding it “put proper measures in place to prevent this kind of dangerous and damaging pollution” going forward.
“The Suquamish Tribe continues to be frustrated and dismayed by the U.S. Navy’s inability to properly manage and dispose of its untreated wastewater,” the statement, emailed from tribal spokesperson Jon Anderson, reads. “Untreated sewage contaminates fishery resources that would otherwise be harvested by our tribal members.”
The “release of 4,000 gallons of untreated sewage from neglected sewer infrastructure into our ancestral waters in Sinclair Inlet is unacceptable,” the statement continues. “This ineffective monitoring at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard is a health hazard and exemplifies a failure to act.”
The press release follows the inadvertent dumping of what the Navy called “less than 4,000 gallons” of wastewater into Sinclair Inlet between Saturday, March 2 and on Sunday, March 3, after a water line’s pressure sensor broke at a shipyard dry dock, the Navy said. A mechanic responding to the leak mistakenly diverted the spill into the inlet, believing it to be “normal saltwater,” a Navy statement reads.
“On Sunday, shipyard personnel discovered that the leak did not originate from a saltwater line and could contain wastewater,” the statement sent by shipyard Deputy Public Affairs Officer J.C. Mathews, read. “Out of an abundance of caution, they shut down the pump to contain the spill.”
“PSNS & IMF takes its responsibility to protect the environment very seriously,” the statement continued, “and will conduct a full investigation into the cause of the spill and the steps taken once it was discovered.”
But the Navy’s contrition may not suffice for tribal members, who identified a pattern of accidental sewage dumps into the waters surrounding one of the nation’s largest Navy shipyards in recent years.
“Navy leadership needs to uphold its commitment to upgrade its infrastructure and take the actions necessary to prevent these spills that have become far too commonplace,” the statement reads.
“We value and respect the service of our local Sailors and the relationship we enjoy with the wider Navy community,” the Suquamish Tribe said, “but we cannot abide the mistreatment of this most important natural resource.”
In a statement Monday, Capt. Edward Alan Schrader, NBK’s commanding officer, responded to the Suquamish Tribe’s concerns in an email, saying that the base is currently working toward new procedures to limit the possibility of future spills.
“We understand the concerns of the local community and our tribal partners,” Schrader wrote. “We’re committed to being good stewards of the environment and that has never changed in our nearly 130 years in the Pacific Northwest.”
“Discussions about this issue are taking place at the highest levels within the local Navy community,” Schrader said.
Gabe Stutman is a reporter with the Kitsap News Group. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.