News

Dirty work on runway costs port

By PAT JENKINS

The Mirror

The Port of Seattle has been slapped with a state penalty for environmental problems with the controversial construction of a third runway at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

The port and its principal contractor in the project, TTI Constructors, were fined $15,000 last month by the Department of Ecology for allowing muddy water to escape into Miller Creek and for trucks tracking dirt onto roadways near the work site. The latter is a continuing problem, according to DOE.

The port, which owns and operates the airport, is having a large dirt embankment built as part of the project.

DOE said a pipeline carrying stormwater broke during heavy rain Oct 8, pouring water and mud into a wetland that flows to Miller Creek. Water in the wetland was 60 times muddier than the state allows for the project, DOE officials said.

They said project managers have been told to detect and correct water-quality problems quicker.

DOE also requested a better job of washing the wheels of trucks leaving the project site after delivering fill. Dirt from the wheels has gotten onto State Route 518, where it can wash into ditches and storm drains that flow to creeks.

About 100 trucks leave the site each hour, officials said.

A full-time inspector for DOE, his salary paid for by the port, is on-site to monitor construction and protect creeks. The inspector documented the violations that led to the civil penalty.

Opponents of the project have criticized it previously for having negative impacts environmentally. But the latest trouble appears to be an exception, according to a DOE official.

"We're disappointed with these problems," but overall, the project "has been well-managed," said Kevin Fitzpatrick, DOE's regional water-quality supervisor.

Mark Reis, managing director of aviation for the port, said the problems will be corrected.

"We take our responsibility to protect the environment very seriously," he said.

The Regional Commission on Airport Affairs (RCAA), a Normandy Park-based citizens' group that opposes the runway project, criticized the port's handling of the incidents.

The port "says all the right things about protecting the environment," but its "neglectful actions speak far louder," said Larry Corvari, president of RCAA.

Another organization, Airport Communities Coalition (ACC), comprised of Federal Way and other cities near the airport or under its landing and takeoff paths, also opposed the runway until withdrawing legal challenges in August. ACC contested what it called environmental impacts of the runway, including noise from increased air traffic.

The port claims the runway is needed to help keep flights on time during bad weather that can limit the use of existing runways.

Federal Way and the other ACC members –– the cities of Des Moines, Burien, Normandy Park and Tukwila and the Highline School District –– spent a combined $15 million over 10 years fighting the runway. Last summer, the group claimed victory in environmental controls placed on the project by the state.

Money from the port, U.S. and state is paying for the $1.2 billion project.

Editor Pat Jenkins: 925-5565, editor@fedwaymirror.com

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