A boat drives out of the Port of Everett Marina in front of Boxcar Park on Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

A boat drives out of the Port of Everett Marina in front of Boxcar Park on Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Port of Everett settles stormwater lawsuit for $2.5M

A water quality watchdog filed the suit in 2022, alleging the port exceeded pollution benchmarks dozens of times.

EVERETT — The Port of Everett agreed to settle a lawsuit about alleged excess stormwater discharge for over $2.5 million.

In May 2022, water quality watchdog Puget Soundkeeper Alliance filed the lawsuit alleging water samples exceeded various pollution “benchmarks” — including for pH, copper, zinc and turbidity — set in the port’s state-issued permit over two dozen times between 2018 and early 2022.

In June, the alliance and the port leaders said they were working on a solution.

A resolution came after a “lengthy” mediation last week, port CEO Lisa Lefeber said during a port commission meeting Tuesday. The commissioners voted 3-0 to approve the settlement.

“I know this doesn’t fall absent on you, but the port has made a significant environment infrastructure investments,” Lefeber said. “There’s always room for improvement, but we are committed to doing that.”

Emily Gonzalez, Puget Soundkeeper’s staff attorney and law and policy director, said the organization wouldn’t comment on it as an “active matter.”

All of the money in the agreement will come from the port’s budget, which could delay other projects, spokesperson Cat Soper said.

About $2 million of the settlement will pay for stormwater improvements at the port’s seaport along Everett’s waterfront.

Another $500,000 is a cash settlement that will go to another organization for an environmental project in Port Gardner, Lefeber said. That project could get $150,000 from an an escrow account if the port has an incident that reaches a certain level within the three years of the consent decree. But if that doesn’t happen, the port keeps the $150,000 and the alliance gets any interest.

The port is paying the alliance’s legal fees, estimated at $138,000.

The Ocean Research College Academy, commonly called by its acronym ORCA, which teaches high school students in a college setting, is marked to get least $50,000.

In addition to money, the port agreed to adopt some practices to bolster what it already had in place, Lefeber said.

Some of the work will happen immediately and some will take time.

The agreement requires the port to begin immediately monitoring stormwater discharges from a drain, called a scupper, near Hewitt Avenue along the waterfront at least a year. If its data doesn’t exceed any of its permitted benchmarks for a year, the port can stop monitoring.

The port has to install biofiltration systems at two bioswales, a channel for stormwater runoff with plants, and plug an outfall by the end of October 2024. It also is required to make permanent a pilot treatment system in the North Yard at the Hewitt Terminal.

In recent years, the port has acquired dozens of acres, much of it contaminated by chemicals used for mill operations. The port, with federal and state help, has spent millions to clean and mitigate the land with an eye on seeing it used again as part of its working seaport or for redevelopment with recreational, residential and retail opportunities.

Ben Watanabe: 425-339-3037; bwatanabe@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @benwatanabe.

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