Northside Rock Products fined $127,776 for stormwater pollution
A North Plains-area rock quarry has been fined for the third time due to illegal discharge of pollutants into McKay Creek, according to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.
The agency issued Northside Rock Products LLC, which operates a quarry at 18240 N.W. Dixie Mountain Road north of North Plains, a $127,776 penalty on Aug. 29.
In July 2017 and February 2018, DEQ issued Northside fines totaling $172,648 for similar illegal discharges, according to Laura Gleim, spokeswoman for DEQ.
After the violations, the company failed to implement a stormwater pollution control plan at its Peterson Quarry gravel mine as required by Oregon law, according to state officials.
"DEQ is concerned that in spite of prior DEQ enforcement actions and criminal charges all relating to water pollution at this site, as well as much technical assistance, you continued to disregard your obligation to manage the stormwater discharging from your site," an August letter from DEQ to Northside reads in part.
In early 2019, Oregon State Police opened an investigation after reports of illegal discharge continued.
DEQ inspectors took samples of discharged water from the site on three separate days in March and April 2019. Water discharged into the East Fork of McKay Creek was above the natural background turbidity, or cloudiness, for the creek during each test, according to the penalty issued by DEQ. One test showed a sample of water was nearly 200 times cloudier than normal.
"When there's highly turbid or really muddy water that's discharged into a creek, fish can starve because they can't catch their food," Gleim said. "It can get trapped in their gills so they can't breathe. It also displaces oxygen, and that makes it difficult for aquatic life to live as well."
McKay Creek is a designated spawning area for salmon and steelhead. Highly turbid water can also smother fish eggs, according to DEQ.
The violations prompted the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries to issue an order of suspension to the company in April, ceasing the company's operations, Gleim said.
Between April and June, the company took steps to implement its stormwater pollution control plan. DEQ inspected the site in June and confirmed the plan was implemented, Gleim said.
DEQ has not received complaints about the site from residents in the area since the treatment system was installed, she said.
Northside has paid fines for the previous two penalties in 2017 and 2018, but the company is appealing the penalty issued in August.
According to the company's appeal, Northside denies illegally discharging water in March and April, rejecting DEQ's findings. The company also denies DEQ's allegations that Northside failed to adequately inspect the site from December 2017 to April 2019. Additionally, Northside denies it failed to implement its stormwater pollution control plan until June 2019.
Northside didn't immediately return a request for comment Friday afternoon, Oct. 18.
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