FERNDALE, WA — Cargill Animal Nutrition, the owner of Ferndale Grain Inc., and plaintiffs Puget Soundkeeper Alliance and RE Sources for Sustainable Communities have successfully negotiated and settled a Clean Water Act case over industrial discharges of polluted storm water runoff at the company’s Ferndale facility.
As part of the agreement entered into US District Court, Cargill has agreed to expand and upgrade its existing storm water runoff treatment systems that will help reduce levels of zinc in runoff from the Cargill facility. Zinc is a heavy metal that can be damaging for both people and salmon. Cargill will also take steps to ensure that copper, oil and fecal coliform levels in runoff from the plant don’t exceed what is allowed by their Department of Ecology storm water discharge permit. Cargill has also agreed to rigorously adhere to a series of pollution prevention practices and to regularly sample storm water discharges from the facility for copper, zinc, fecal coliform, biological oxygen demand, nitrate, and phosphorus. Under the Clean Water Act industrial facilities such as Cargill’s Ferndale facility are required to monitor storm water discharges and treat the water if necessary to reduce pollutants to levels that are safer for people, fish, and wildlife.
Most of the storm water discharge from the Cargill facility flows into Schell Creek, a fragile waterway that is a tributary of the Lummi River. Both streams support habitat for Coho salmon, chum salmon and coastal cutthroat trout, as well as threatened Chinook salmon. The improvements that Cargill has agreed to make will result in cleaner, healthier waterways downstream, which will benefit aquatic life and human health.
This settlement builds on Cargill’s existing efforts to reduce contaminants in storm water discharges from the facility. “Polluted storm water runoff is the single largest source of toxic pollution to Puget Sound”, said Puget Soundkeeper Chris Wilke. “Protecting our public waterways takes commitment from everyone of us. We applaud Cargill’s efforts to take these additional pollution prevention steps that will improve water quality in Schell Creek and the Lummi River”.
The settlement includes a payment of $70,000 to fund supplemental environmental restoration projects, or SEPs, which is customary in community settlements like this one. This funding will go to third-party organizations or community groups doing work to protect or restore the waterways in the area, to offset damage done. The SEP funding will be administered by the Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment, overseen by a local funding board, and will be designated for projects to restore important aquatic resources damaged by pollution. None of the fine will go to either RE Sources or Puget Soundkeeper Alliance. Read more on how funds from Clean Water Act cases are distributed.
We are very pleased that Cargill is taking these additional steps to protect water quality,” said Ann Russell, RE Sources for Sustainable Communities Clean Water Program Manager. “We know that once water is polluted, it is costly and difficult to clean up – more costly than preventing pollution in the first place. Every person, and every business in Whatcom County needs to work together to take action to keep our precious waters clean.”
RE Sources and Puget Soundkeeper were represented in this matter by Richard Smith and Katherine Brennan, Smith & Lowney PLLC.
RE Sources for Sustainable Communities is a local nonprofit organization in Bellingham, WA dedicated to protecting the health of northwest Washington’s people and ecosystems through the application of science, education, advocacy, and action. For more information, visit re-sources.org.
Puget Soundkeeper is a citizen advocacy group whose mission is to protect and preserve the waters of Puget Sound. Established in 1984, Soundkeeper is a founding member of the international Waterkeeper Alliance.
RE Sources and Puget Soundkeeper are members of the Waterkeeper Alliance, an international nonprofit that strengthens and grows a global network of grassroots leaders protecting everyone’s right to clean water. The Waterkeeper Alliance is made up of over 300 organizations and affiliates protecting rivers, lakes and coastal waterways on 6 continents, with a goal of swimmable, drinkable, fishable water everywhere.
Source: Hannah Coughlin, Communications Director, RE Sources for Sustainable Communities