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Contractor Fined for Violations on Washington State Highway

BELLINGHAM, Washington, June 26, 2008 (ENS) – The Department of Ecology has fined a construction company $8,000 for its repeated failure to prevent erosion and stop sediment from flowing off a state highway construction project into a nearby creek.

Bellingham-based IMCO General Construction is the primary contractor working on improvements to State Route 539, or Guide Meridian, that runs from Bellingham to the international border with Canada.

A Department of Ecology inspection verified reports that on October 18, 2007 muddy water was allowed to flow off the construction site into a salmon-bearing stream called Ten Mile Creek.

Water with excessive mud or silt can harm aquatic life by damaging fish gills and clogging stream bed gravel that the fish need for spawning.

The inspection revealed erosion and poor sediment management throughout the project area.

The company also has failed to properly prevent similar pollution of state waters at three other sites in Whatcom County during the last year, inspectors found.

“These kinds of discharges can be prevented through simple adherence to established pollution prevention measures,” said Department of Ecology water quality inspector Mak Kaufman.

The poor construction practices on the SR 539 project violate the state construction stormwater permit, issued by the state environmental agency to the Washington State Department of Transportation, WSDOT.

Through its own inspection and reporting, WSDOT has repeatedly notified the company about the runoff problems and instructed the firm to fix them.

WSDOT has provided the Department of Ecology with regular reports of discharge violations, as required by the permit.

“WSDOT has operated appropriately throughout this construction project,” Kaufman said.

IMCO has cooperated with the Department of Ecology investigation and conditions on the site have improved, said Kaufman.

Within 30 days, the company may appeal the penalty to the Department of Ecology or to the Washington State Pollution Control Hearings Board.

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