Egg Lake Quarry will appeal fine

The Washington State Department of Ecology issued a $53,000 fine against Egg Lake Quarry, run by Myron Williams Inc., at the end of March. Williams Inc. has 30 days to either pay the fine or appeal to the Emissions Control Hearings Board. Owner Myron Williams said he will appeal.

“We are still figuring out the fine and complaint,” Williams said. “But we are going to appeal because the information and how we got there is incorrect.”

According to Sylvia Graham, Ecology water quality inspector who has been working with the site, there were nine violations documented from 2021 to 2022.

Those violations include failure to store petroleum properly, failure to label containers with hazardous materials properly, failure to prevent leaks and spills, failure to store batteries properly, failure to monitor stormwater and to submit reports to Ecology by the due date.

According to Graham, prior to a 2021 inspection Ecology notified Myron Williams, Inc. multiple times regarding its failure to submit monitoring reports by the due date. “This permit violation has been occurring since at least 2016. Between May 2018 and February 2020, Ecology sent Myron Williams, Inc. several notices for this violation, including four warning letters, a notice of violation, a field ticket penalty for $2,000, which the business paid, plus additional email communications,” Graham said. To come into compliance, she continued, Williams needs to change on-site practices including storage, preventing leaks and cleaning leaks, and submitting reports in a timely manner.

Williams, however, was under the impression that he was on good standing with Ecology until 2021, although he got behind in reporting to Ecology in 2020 which caused the $2,000 fine. Inspectors in the past, Williams said, told him he ran a clean operation.

The 2021 violations, according to Williams, were corrected. Two buckets of oil sitting after recent equipment oil changes, for example, were cleaned up the day they came. The batteries mentioned in the violation, Williams said, were on a pallet waiting to be picked up.

“Due to the ferry situation it has been very difficult to get anyone out here to pick batteries up,” Williams said. Les Schwab and a few other companies would drive a truck over to collect bad batteries and drop off new ones. With ferry disruptions, there is no longer anyone willing to come over, so Williams and his employees have had to take them off island themselves.

Violations also included an empty bucket that was not labeled and a mobile fuel tank. Williams was unsure why these were cited since both were empty. Graham responded that all tanks and containers stored at the site are subject to permit requirements, although an empty tank does not have the same storage and labeling requirements as those holding chemicals and petroleum.

“Facilities must minimize the number of empty containers on site,” she said, adding that since there were a number of unlabeled and improperly stored containers during both inspections, eliminating the tank would not change the penalty amount. One concern of Williams, he said, is that there was nothing in the notice explaining how Ecology arrived at $53,000.

According to Graham, following the 2021 inspection Myron Williams, Inc. was directed to submit specific documentation of corrections in 2021. “The business did submit photos of corrections for two of the violations but did not submit most of the required documentation for several of the violations,” Graham said. “Ecology sent an email to Myron Williams, Inc. in May 2021 reiterating the remaining requirements and due dates.”

Graham stated Ecology did not receive any further correspondence or documentation. According to Williams, after sending photo documentation in 2021, he did not hear from Ecology until an unscheduled site inspection in August of 2022. No one was at the quarry except his bookkeeper. “We are an intermittent mine,” Williams explained, “so we are not always in operation.”

Ecology did not send him the results until November 2022, and again, he believed the corrections had been made since there was no further communication until the fine. “I should have continued to contact them, but when I didn’t hear back I assumed everything was ok,” Williams said.

As far as water quality, Williams stated he tests four times a year, as per requirements. The tests have never come back showing contaminants of any kind during the 30 years he has operated the quarry. His own personal well is also located nearby. He also created a berm with native plants to prevent runoff. There are only two places stormwater can flow out from the quarry, and according to Williams, those areas are tested frequently for turbidity, or clarity.

“It took a few years, but now that the berm is set it will last in perpetuity,” he said.

Graham said there is not enough data regarding contamination, but the Toxics Cleanup Program might look deeper if they feel it is warranted. The Journal reached out to staff members of the Toxics Cleanup. Staff members responded that it was too early to tell what their next steps may be.

“Our goal is to stop any discharges or risk of discharges of pollutants,” said Scarlet Tang, Ecology communications manager. “All sand and gravel operators are required to submit to these guidelines. They are pretty basic measures to protect the environment. It isn’t a level playing field if one doesn’t comply.”

Tang added that they offer technical assistance and really try to work with businesses first.

Williams has hired Blue Environmental to assist him with the violation notice. Blue Environmental is a Seattle company that provides permit guidance and compliance support for businesses throughout Washington State, according to their website. On April 13, Blue Environmental conducted a water quality test that came back clean, according to Williams, adding they took two water samples and closely analyzed everything, something Ecology has never done.

Douglas Allen, Ecology’s Bellingham field office manager, stressed Ecology’s desire is to work with businesses.“We will make several attempts to get the penalty information to him. We want to make sure he receives the notice of penalty and go from there,” he said reiterating that Williams has thirty days to appeal.

“We are going to appeal even if it’s just to set the record straight,” Williams said.