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Sandvik in Finley agrees to $650,000 payment in Clean Water Act case

Sandvik Specialty Metals of Finley has agreed to pay $650,000 to organizations working to protect the Columbia River, shown near the John Day Dam.
Sandvik Specialty Metals of Finley has agreed to pay $650,000 to organizations working to protect the Columbia River, shown near the John Day Dam. AP file

Sandvik Special Metals in Finley has agreed to pay $650,000 and will make improvements to its wastewater treatment under terms of a consent decree approved in federal court on Monday.

The money will be used for three projects intended to improve water quality in the Columbia River and its tributaries in Eastern Washington.

Columbia Riverkeeper filed a Clean Water Act lawsuit in 2015, after Sandvik reported to the state that it discharged more ammonia into the Columbia River than its water pollution permit allowed.

Sandvik operates a plant near the Columbia River that makes seamless metal tubes for the aerospace and nuclear industries.

Sandvik has developed plans to modify its wastewater treatment systems to ensure it complies with its permit issued by the Washington State Department of Ecology. Ecology approved the plans in December.

$400,000 to Futurewise

$200,000 to Center for Environmental Law & Policy

$50,000 to Friends of Toppenish Creek

The consent decree requires the improvements to be in place by the end of 2017.

“Sandvik … is happy that this settlement with Columbia Riverkeeper will provide funds for organizations working to improve water quality in the Columbia River,” said Örjan Blom, president of Sandvik Special Metals.

The largest portion of the payment, $400,000, will be paid to Futurewise.

It plans to use the money to prevent urban sprawl in the Tri-Cities and to encourage responsible, sustainable growth, according to a court documents. Preventing urban sprawl protects natural resource areas and water quality and quantity, Futurewise said.

Benton County and the Tri-Cities are undertaking an eight-year update to comprehensive plans and development regulations.

The additional money will help increase Futurewise staff in the Tri-Cities as the organization works to educate local government staff on shoreline protection and on planning urban development with consideration of available groundwater resources, according to court documents.

Today’s agreement will have a real, tangible impact on clean water.

Miles Johnson, attorney for Columbia Riverkeeper

It also will support the Port of Kennewick’s urban redevelopment agenda.

The Center for Environmental Law & Policy will receive $200,000.

It plans to use money to examine which Columbia River tributaries in central Washington do not have mandated minimum instream flows and which watersheds would benefit the most from setting minimum flows.

It also will work with tribes and conservation organizations to make ecosystem a new primary function of the renegotiated Columbia River Treaty, which now focuses on flood risk and hydropower.

The remaining $50,000 of the $650,000 payment would go to Friends of Toppenish Creek. The money would be used to study whether rules are being followed by agricultural and industrial operators along lower Yakima River tributaries to prevent pollution.

“Today’s agreement will have a real, tangible impact on clean water,” said Miles Johnson, attorney for Columbia Riverkeeper. “It will result in less pollution entering the Columbia and fund important work to restore the river that we all enjoy and depend on.”

The consent decree also requires Sandvik to pay Columbia Riverkeeper $195,475 for attorneys fees and costs.

Annette Cary: 509-582-1533, @HanfordNews

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