Courtesy of Puget Soundkeeper Alliance

The LRI landfill allows stormwater and leachate to go into Muck Creek, the lawsuit claims.
Courtesy of Puget Soundkeeper Alliance The LRI landfill allows stormwater and leachate to go into Muck Creek, the lawsuit claims.
An environmental group has filed suit against a Pierce County landfill, alleging the latter’s water waste is polluting a nearby creek.
Land Recovery, Inc. (LRI) is a private landfill with an agent in Puyallup. Puget Soundkeeper Alliance, a grassroots non-profit focused on protecting water quality in the Puget Sound and its tributaries, claims LRI has allegedly committed various clean water violations for years. The focus of their argument is the pollution of Muck Creek, which affects the Nisqually River and the Puget Sound.
Katelynn Kinn, clean water attorney for the alliance said the lawsuit her group filed was to ensure water laws are followed. They filed suit last year.
According to Kinn, the landfill is 168 acres in size and discharges storm water to the south fork of Muck Creek. Muck Creek eventually discharges into the Nisqually River. Muck Creek has salmon and trout runs.
“[The salmon] require a pretty specific habitat,” Kinn said. “That’s why it’s so important to protect these creeks that recover, which have been declining for decades.”
LRI was formed as Pierce County Recycling in 1977 following a decision by the Pierce County Board of County Commissioners to privatize the County’s solid waste disposal system. The organization changed names in 2001 to Land Recovery Inc.
Storm water is the rain that hits a hard surface and flows or runs off of it. Sometimes it infiltrates into the soil, but for facilities with large amounts of hard surface, it collects pollution and then pools and runs into waterways. LRI is allowed to discharge storm water to Muck Creek as long as it doesn’t violate its permits. Kinn said this lawsuit simply seeks to enforce those permits because LRI is violating those permits. LRI did not respond to questions.
The permit doesn’t allow them to discharge leachate -- the fluid generated during the compression of a landfill. Kinn claims LRI has been discharging leachate into nearby wetlands.
“We learned LRI was discharging leachate through the storm water system through public records,” Kinn said. “The agencies that have done inspection reports, those inspection reports are all public record.”
Several other leachate and water issues were listed in the lawsuit as well.
“The leachate discharges are no small matter. One inspection report identifies that in 2017, one of the spills resulted in 240 gallons getting into the creek.” Kinn said. “Other samples the health department took of the discharge show high levels of PCB’s, lead, selenium, chromium, and arsenic.”
Kinn said the government should be handling this issue.
The trial date is set to begin March 26, 2019.
Paul Stasch, storm water facility manager for the Department of Ecology’s water treatment, said if Soundkeeper’s argument is true, then this should be a simple case.
“Regarding the benchmarks, if they exceed, then they’d have to do certain things to bring them back down which are specified in the permit,” he said.
Stasch said the public can view discharge reports through the Department of Ecology.
“Previous to 2017, LRI was sampling in the wrong location and then the sample location was re-located, but I can’t confirm or deny since then. It’s an unresolved policy issue that needs to be resolved as its part of what this lawsuit is about,” Stasch said. “It’s the wetland between the storm water that’s a legal question that’s what’s being litigated if that’s appropriate and allowable.”
The leachate concerns are another sticking point for Stasch.
“The leachate discharges are no small matter. One inspection report identifies that in 2017, one of the spills resulted in 240 gallons getting into the creek. Other samples the health department took of the discharge show high levels of PCB’s, lead, selenium, chromium, and arsenic,” he said. “I think there have been outstanding issues that have been going on for a number of years, potential environmental issues that need to be resolved and this is one mechanism to do that.”