Ben Franklin Transit officials are challenging an $8,000 fine for allegedly violating Washington's stormwater pollution rules.
The agency wants a second opinion, claiming all of the state Department of Ecology's concerns already had been addressed or were overstated.
"We thought it was kind of harsh," said Dick Ciccone, the agency's manager of fleet, facilities and special projects.
The penalty, imposed in the last quarter of 2011, was part of $117,372 in fines issued statewide.
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Penalties result when noncompliance continues after Ecology has issued warnings, technical assistance or for serious violations, said Joye Redfield-Wilder, Ecology spokeswoman, in a news release.
Ciccone said this is Ben Franklin Transit's first penalty from Ecology. The agency was honored in 2006 as Richland's green business of the year for efforts in pollution prevention and sustainable practices.
Ecology claims Ben Franklin Transit failed to prepare and implement a stormwater pollution prevention plan as required and did not follow conditions of the industrial stormwater permit.
The transit agency also allegedly allowed vehicle wash water to go into a storm drain, didn't do a mandatory sampling of stormwater runoff and didn't cover old batteries to keep pollutants from going onto the ground.
Ciccone said Ecology failed to consider that a stormwater pollution plan was submitted in August, almost two months before the citation was issued, or that there wasn't enough stormwater found on the seven-acre site on Columbia Drive near Highway 240 to collect for the mandatory sampling last October.
"Our wash water is reclaimed, put into tanks and is reused," Ciccone said. "What little water drips off vehicles goes into a sanitary system and ends up in (Kennewick's) sewer," he said.
Batteries that had been stored outside without a covering, now are placed in a tub to eliminate any possibility of debris and pollutants reaching the ground, Ciccone said.
"We've gotten our lawyer involved. We want someone other than Ecology in Yakima to look at this," Ciccone said.
Redfield-Wilder said penalties may be reduced by the Pollution Control Hearings Board or through a negotiated settlement.
Ciccone said the transit agency hadn't had a visit from Ecology in seven years until last fall when he reported that an unknown source of water was getting into the agency's stormwater system.
"I reported our system had been compromised by the Highway 240 bypass project," Ciccone said.
The leak initially was suspected as coming from Richland's underground water lines, but that was ruled out after an extensive investigation.
Ciccone said the Ecology visit led to discovery of a grease spill related toconstruction of the new facilities forBen Franklin Transit, but that wascompletely cleaned up.
The agency facilities are south of the Columbia River on ground with a "fairly high water table," Ciccone said.
All stormwater runoff from the property is put through an oil and water separator, with the filtered water put into a Army Corps of Engineers' ditch. The ditch water is tested for potability and then emptied into the Columbia River about four times a year, Ciccone said.