It is believed to be the largest financial penalty in an environmental criminal case in state history.
TACOMA, Wash — Electron Hydro and its executives were fined $1 million for polluting the Puyallup River with plastic sports grass.
Company and COO Thom Fischer plead guilty in February serious offense of operating an illegal hydraulic project.
On May 5, a Pierce County Superior Court judge sentenced Electron Hydro to pay a $250,000 fine, the maximum financial penalty for the company. Fischer was also ordered to pay $5,000, the maximum for individuals.
As part of the verdict, Electron Hydro will also pay $745,000 to the Puyallup Tribal Fisheries Foundation to help restore the Puyallup River.
“This outcome directs significant resources toward restoring the Puyallup River from damage caused by Electron Hydro’s criminal conduct,” said State Attorney General Bob Ferguson. “The Puyallup Tribe has been a steward of the Puyallup River for generations, and the Puyallup Tribe Fisheries is best positioned to preserve, restore and enhance the river.”
In January 2022, Ferguson files 36 misdemeanor charges in Pierce County Superior Court against the hydro company and its COO. The charges include violating the state’s Water Pollution Control Act, the Coastal Management Act, and Pierce County’s code.
In October 2020, the Puyallup Tribe claimed that Electron Hydro, the hydroelectric company behind the Electron Dam, had contaminated the Puyallup River with shredded rubber from artificial grass, a claim then they sued the company in federal court.
About eight months later, the Washington Department of Ecology announced it would fine the company more than $500,000 for the violation.
According to the department, the contamination was caused by an Electron Hydro construction site underway in the stream and the use of artificial grass to create a channel to divert the river away from the site starting July 28. 2020, according to the ministry.
The goal of the construction was to replace the company’s intake structure and diversion dam, which dates back to 1903.
According to the Department of Ecology, pieces of sport grass were found 21 miles downstream, and layers of crushed tire rubber used as cushions for the grass are believed to have traveled about 41 miles downstream to the estuary and access to Commencement Bay in Tacoma.