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EPA Issues City of Tacoma $358,000 Penalty for Missing Commencement Bay Cleanup Deadline

Release Date: 02/08/2007
Contact Information: Lori Cohen, (206) 553-6523,; Mark MacIntyre, (206) 553-7302,

Agency: Construction Delay Slowed Cleanup
(Seattle, Wash. – February 8, 2007) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued a $358,000 stipulated penalty to the City of Tacoma, Washington. Today’s action stems from the City’s failure to meet a key deadline as part of the cleanup activities in the Thea Foss and Wheeler-Osgood Waterways cleanup. The site lies within greater Commencement Bay Nearshore/Tideflats Superfund Site in Tacoma, Washington.

“The City missed a critical berm construction deadline in the St Paul Waterway,” said Dan Opalski, EPA Environmental Cleanup office director. “The berm was needed to contain highly-contaminated sediments dredged from the Waterway, causing a ‘domino effect’ of delay. The result: several other construction deadlines were missed, meaning slower cleanup of a key part of Puget Sound.”

The City negotiated and agreed to stipulated penalties in its 2003 Consent Decree that required site cleanup. According to Opalski, the City began missing construction deadlines on the $97 million Thea Foss cleanup in 2004.

“Deadlines help ensure cleanups move forward faster,” Dan Opalski, said. “When people sign-up to become our partners in major projects on the scale of Commencement Bay, they do so with an understanding that if deadlines are missed, there will be consequences. Without this penalty, we believe the work would have been delayed even further.”

In September 2005, EPA and the City reached an agreement that gave the go-ahead to a revised cleanup schedule. As part of that agreement, EPA agreed to forgive over $2 million in accrued stipulated penalties for a missed deadline. But the agreement explicitly reserved the right to later demand the $358,000 in stipulated penalties for missing the deadline for completing work on the St. Paul Waterway confined disposal site. Missing this deadline delayed a significant amount of cleanup for nearly nine months. Now that all the cleanup and habitat work is complete, EPA is assessing the $358,000 penalty as agreed by the parties in the 2005 settlement.

EPA’s Opalski also emphasized that "While EPA recognizes that the City has invested millions in cleanup and habitat mitigation work, enforcing our legal agreements respects the many parties that perform cleanup work and meet their deadlines."

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