Shell @ Terminal 5: County says it can’t access the sewer system on-site for wastewater; city appeal-hearing date set

(UPDATED 2:16 PM with additional new information regarding appeal of city ‘interpretation’ re: Polar Pioneer mooring)

(May 15th photo of Polar Pioneer at T-5, by Long Bach Nguyen)

ORIGINAL 12:46 PM REPORT: Just in from the King County Wastewater Treatment Division:

King County’s Industrial Waste Program today denied a permit application for discharge of wastewater from the Alaska Venture Shell Facility at Terminal 5 into the County’s regional sewer system.

“Everyone has to follow the rules, even multinational corporations,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine.

“Over the long term, we need to invigorate the promise of a clean-energy future and make King County the regional catalyst for carbon reduction, renewable energy, and a new innovation economy.”

The Industrial Waste Program denied the wastewater discharge permit on two grounds: lack of ability to demonstrate compliance with pre-treatment standards that protect King County’s regional wastewater system and Puget Sound, and failure to apply in the name of the company that is actually generating the discharge.

While the application was filed by Waste Management National Services, Inc. of Kirkland, officials say the discharge is being generated by the Alaska Venture Shell Facility at the Port of Seattle’s Terminal 5.

Waste Management is currently collecting and trucking the discharge to other facilities that are permitted for disposal. The permit application sought permission to discharge wastewater into the sewer system through a nearby manhole, for treatment at the County’s West Point Treatment Plant in Seattle’s Magnolia neighborhood.

Officials say the applicant failed to demonstrate the Alaska Venture’s ability to comply with the County’s wastewater pre-treatment standards, and was unable to provide assurance that disposal wouldn’t create a public nuisance – in particular with regard to potential toxins, and potential hazards posed by the generation of hydrogen sulfide gases that can endanger workers, corrode sewer pipes and emit the smell of rotten eggs.

Applicants have the legal right to try to cure defects in their permit applications and reapply.

Since 1969, the Industrial Waste Program has required industrial facilities to pretreat wastewater before discharging it into the public’s sewers, under provisions of the King County Code relating to the public health and safety of wastewater operations.

The mission of the Industrial Waste Program is to protect King County’s treatment system and its workers, along with the environment and public health. The program is part of the Wastewater Treatment Division in the King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks.

ADDED 2:16 PM: Also this afternoon, new information related to the city “interpretation” suggesting that Shell’s rig(s) can’t legally moor at T-5 without a different kind of permit. The Port and lease-holder Foss have appealed the interpretation, and a hearing is now set for July 23rd, 9 am in the city Hearing Examiner’s chambers at the Municipal Tower downtown (after a preliminary meeting of all parties in early June). However, if the previously cited timetables hold true, Shell’s fleet will be headed to the Arctic long before the July date.

36 Replies to "Shell @ Terminal 5: County says it can't access the sewer system on-site for wastewater; city appeal-hearing date set"

  • JanS May 27, 2015 (12:58 pm)

    rules are rules, especially when it comes to the environment, and things like this. I’m a bit tired of everyone bending over backwards to accommodate Shell. Good for King County !

  • Lesley May 27, 2015 (1:06 pm)

    Do we know if this will just result in fines or if this will force them to cease operating without a permit?

  • Funrunner May 27, 2015 (1:27 pm)

    So it sounds like the second count is specious hair-splitting and the first isn’t much better. But is dies give a smug sounding Exec to try and make political hay, going on in high dudgeon about multinationals, carbon etc. these fakes make me laugh.

  • Ray May 27, 2015 (1:54 pm)

    This has no impact on their operations. They will just have to continue trucking their waste out.

  • GoBacktoWork May 27, 2015 (2:12 pm)

    Nothing like political grandstanding…

  • Morris May 27, 2015 (2:22 pm)

    There are several other ports that would be happy to take Shell’s money including: Tacoma, Aberdeen, Portland, and Vancouver.

  • ts May 27, 2015 (2:24 pm)

    “make King County the regional catalyst for carbon reduction” – then how about making serious investments in public transportation?

  • Jw May 27, 2015 (2:32 pm)

    I suppose they could always store it on board, then dump it into the open ocean….

  • Jw May 27, 2015 (2:41 pm)

    Come to think of it, sound transit was allowed to dump directly into the sewer with the water pumped from dewatering wells near the UW station. Flows up to 500gpm that DID contain hydrogen sulfide. Those wells were active for a year….so go figure.

  • Karen May 27, 2015 (2:41 pm)

    They should just move to Victoria where everyone puts their poo in the water.

  • Scott May 27, 2015 (3:17 pm)

    This is just ridiculous and another local government entity trying to push an agenda that it has no business being in. If it was anyone else they would just allow it.

    – “I’m a bit tired of everyone bending over backwards to” screw good people out of there money/jobs and wasting the good peoples of Seattle/West Seattle of there time. Also wasting our tax money by having the local government stepping in when it doesn’t need to be. Go worry about our own cities problems and do you job.

  • wetone May 27, 2015 (3:58 pm)

    Funny thing is our great mayor Murray, King County Executive Dow Constantine and many others knew Shell rigs were coming to Seattle long before they got here. It is truly amazing watching how our government officials have been spending our tax dollars lately. People whine about expensive rent and cost of living in this town, fewer and fewer blue collar jobs (for people that live in area)….. I wonder why……wake up

  • Mark May 27, 2015 (4:24 pm)

    Really Dow?

    Maybe you should also post signs at the bathrooms at Sea Tac that read “to those oil workers headed to the north slope to produce the oil that I use to fuel all of my metro busses, thank you for your hard work but you are not allowed to use these restroom facilities.”

    Should our King County Executive really be spending his time deciding on whose human waste he should process?

  • JayDee May 27, 2015 (5:55 pm)

    @Mark: Agreed.

    When do minor procedural issues in an Industrial Waste Water permit application merit County Executive’s time or press release? Never until now. The IWW program would usually contact the applicant, tell them what information they needed to add and then the permit will go through. These are ticky-tacky errors (though I am glad am wasn’t responsible for them–the instructions are pretty clear). Treating this waste water is not rocket science and it is pretty straightforward. There is no clear reason for the IWW program to treat this application any different.

    Dow usually has more commonsense IMHO.

  • dsa May 27, 2015 (6:39 pm)

    JayDee, everything about all the interpretation of the rules has been about grandstanding. As far as I’m concerned anyone grandstanding including local businesses has lost my support.

  • Sarah May 27, 2015 (6:59 pm)

    So Shell, with hubris galore, now wants to poo poo in our local waters before they really really show us the really big poo poo they have in store once they hit the Arctic waters (under-equipped and over-budgeted). Oh, have we not learned that we really do need to focus on the future. All you job hungry folks (or so you lament) have so much more to gain from the future energy products then those that are deemed in neanderthal terms. Get on board! Want to make money? Think alternative fuels – that’s where the real money is.

  • Carterr May 27, 2015 (7:49 pm)

    I don’t have any problems with our city and county officials making sure Shell is responsible and follows the same rules required of other companies that are dumping into the storm-water system our tax dollars built. Shell has shown time and time again they cannot be trusted. They showed not an ounce of common sense when they ran aground their LAST rig, the Kalluk containing 139,000 gallons of diesel fuel and 12,000 gallons of lubricating oil and hydraulic fluids. They hauled this rig south from Alaska during the winter after the first contractor refused to bid on the job, telling them it was too dangerous (and too late in the year). But since apparently avoiding paying taxes on the rig if it was moored in Alaska over the winter is more important than the lives of the men on the rig and our environment, they had it hauled anyway! The brave men and women of our US Coast Guard literally risked their lives rescuing the 18 guys off of this rig in 30 foot seas with 65 mph gusts. This rig was so badly damaged it had to be scrapped! And they are complaining about treating their waste-water? I’m all for commerce but Shell needs to follow the rules and BE responsible. Guess why I don’t trust them to do the right thing.

  • west seattle codger May 27, 2015 (7:49 pm)

    A permit to hook up to a sewer line so the waste water may be properly treated rather than dumped out right. Yeah, that needs the attention of the County Executive. I sincerely hope the other ocean shippers and transport companies take a lesson here. Seattle and King County is not a reliable partner in business bending to the people who make the most noise. Don’t like arctic drilling, fine, don’t use oil products. Go for alternative energy products. Meanwhile, I’m pretty sure that port users will not be comfortable with signing contracts that may be nullified by what amounts to a whim. I think T-5 should be deeded to the Duwamish People for whatever use they see fit. Meanwhile, shut the port down so we can no longer be troubled by trucks, trains and smelly ships. Shut down the cruise lines as well because they use oil and need to off load waste into the King County system.

  • WS family May 27, 2015 (8:53 pm)

    I’m surprised by the negativity here. Sure, our local officials should have stood up against the oil rig project earlier, but at least this is a (belated) effort to put a stop to it. Seattle should definitely NOT be complicit in this effort to drill in Alaska.

    These particular permits may be slightly flimsy grounds upon which to base an objection, but at least they’re legal grounds. We should use any legal and available means to stop this project, and I applaud the kayaktivists and others who have stood up against Shell, including Dow Constantine.

  • PIE May 27, 2015 (9:28 pm)

    This headline is misleading. King County did not deny Shell the use of the regional sewer system. They just denied the use of a manhole near the location that the Shell rig is moored. The other permitted facilities that Waste Management is hauling to discharge to the KC regional sewer system, they are just farther away from the oil rig. So KC is causing Shell to produce extra greenhouse gas by having each truck loaded with sewage drive a longer distance so that the waste can be put into the same KC sewage system!

    The “problems” cited with the application are normal issues that could be easily worked out.

    So yes “everyone must follow the rules” even if it requires you to generate more greenhouse gas to get your sewage the same KC treatment plant. BTW we won’t give you the same assistance we would give a “good” company.

  • Mike May 27, 2015 (9:30 pm)

    Evil Shell, trying to have their waste sent to a treatment plant. They need to be more like those eco friendly cruise ships our politicians bend over backward to bring here.

  • WSB May 27, 2015 (10:00 pm)

    I will ask KCWTD tomorrow if that is true. Otherwise, what our headline says is exactly what their announcement says – that they said Shell can’t use the sewer system for wastewater at Terminal 5.

  • PIE May 27, 2015 (10:04 pm)

    Right on JayDee!

  • Born on Alki 59 May 28, 2015 (7:07 am)

    @ Sarah, In 2006 Washington voters passed initiative 937 for renewable energy independence.
    One thing to come from that is WAC-194 and RCW 43.19.648, still in process. I suggest you read these. They require the eventual 100% mandatory use of electricity, bio and alternative fuels such as compressed natural gas (CNG-LNG) fuel by all Washington State and Local Government vehicles, vessels and construction equipment by 2020. Oddly enough, the Polar Pioneer is exploring arctic CNG reserves. Hey Dow, Ed, Jay, kayaktavists….guess what? we cant have our cake and eat it too. This grandstanding is ridiculous and I no longer support those who are.

  • Seattledude May 28, 2015 (7:20 am)

    Figure it out Shell…Seattle does not want you right or wrong….
    We are not a far flung 3rd world country you can do whatever you want with…
    Go away…maybe Tacoma wants you…
    Seattle does NOT want your ugly rigs in our sound…

  • Scott May 28, 2015 (8:50 am)

    All I have to say is Seattle is the city it is, only because of people/business going to Alaska to work.

  • ChefJoe May 28, 2015 (2:21 pm)

    @Seattledude, I live here in Seattle (and pay the port of seattle levy too) and I welcome our port facility being put to use by Shell. Every time I see the rig I’m pretty marveled by it as a piece of engineering… kind of like when I went with my dad and grandfather to tour the USS Missouri when it was still here. The big guns are huge!

  • Yardvark May 28, 2015 (2:37 pm)

    Sure, but Seattle is also the city it is because of all those who had to flee here from Alaska when their livelihoods were destroyed by the Exxon Valdez spill.

  • Yardvark May 28, 2015 (2:45 pm)

    ChefJoe – It’s a cool structure, to be sure. But even the Feds have recognized that it has a 75% chance of causing an oil spill with its article drilling. In my opinion, that makes for awful engineering, all politics aside. If a bridge had a 75% chance of collapsing, would we even allow it to be built?

  • WSB May 28, 2015 (3:46 pm)

    For the commenter above who suggested our headline was misleading, this is the reply I just got after asking them for clarification as I said I would:

    Waste Management currently hauls the waste to a disposal site operated by Marine Vacuum Services, which accepts waste on a batch basis. The company, which is permitted to discharge waste to King County’s sewer system, has onsite testing and pretreatment facilities. If a waste batch meets King County’s pretreatment standards, it can be discharged to the sewer system. If it doesn’t, it has to be pretreated and retested.

    It’s important to clarify that the root of the issue is permit requirements. The Industrial Waste Program, which operates as part of King County WTD, rejected the permit application because Waste Management, the applicant, is not the source of the waste and they did not demonstrate the ability to meet King County’s pretreatment requirements for discharge to the sewer system.

    So to add extra detail to the headline, I will change it to “access” instead of “use” and add “on site.”

  • ChefJoe May 28, 2015 (4:11 pm)

    Yardvark, you’re misleading with your 75% claim being attributed to this rig.

    The BOEM report based that calculation on 77 years of drilling and over 500 production wells.

    How about this, if there’s a 1 in 500 chance over the course of a 77 year lifetime that a child will cause great harm to society (commit murder or destroy large swaths of rainforest or something), you’d make sure nobody would have kids, right ?

  • Yardvark May 28, 2015 (8:21 pm)

    Fair point about the rig itself, ChefJoe.

    But I think if there was a 75% that sending our kids to college would turn them into murderers, we’d likely be a bit more critical of their higher education than we’re being about the likelihood of catastrophic failure with this type of artic drilling. Would that be fair to say?

  • Kevin May 28, 2015 (8:51 pm)

    I think the oil rig is a pleasing site, but the oil rig protest barge is now becoming the focus of many Alki/harbor Ave residence as it is not only a eyesore…but now they are creating noise pollution. Some band is blaring their music the last two nights that can be heard all the way up to California ave. Also if I was Marination I would figure out a way to have the music stop….we were a party of 10 who were going to eat and drink but choose not to because of the loud music.

    • WSB May 28, 2015 (9:11 pm)

      Someone e-mailed us about that last night – I suggested contacting the city Customer Service hotline to find out about the marine-noise rules and how to get them enforced. I believe it’s more likely a matter for SPD than for USCG.

  • ChefJoe May 29, 2015 (12:05 am)

    Yardvark, you’re missing the point that actually tapping into and producing billions of barrels of oil from over 500 wells would be required.

    I think if sending _over 500 kids_ to college had a 75% chance that 1 of those kids turned into a murderer, most people would accept it for the lifetime benefit college tends to provide to society.

  • Felix June 1, 2015 (9:59 am)

    For me, this is not about fossil fuel, l’ts about Shell corp. They are a terrible company with a deplorable safety and human rights record. Their collusion with the Nigerian govt to suppress protests and remove local landowners is unconscionable, not to mention the environmental damage done there as well. They cut corners at every chance to keep costs down and maximize profits. The whole Kulik debacle is yet another example of their reckless behavior….only 2 years ago people…I’m positive a spill is going to happen if they continue and expand their artic drilling, and I’m also positive they know this and already have a plan to litigate their costs to a fraction of the true damage. Just wait and see.

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