The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has issued a $5,365 civil penalty to Mount Hood Railroad Company for failing to monitor pollutant levels in the rail line’s stormwater — a violation of the company’s stormwater discharge permit.
According to a release from DEQ, Mount Hood Railroad, which is located on Railroad Avenue in Hood River, was specifically fined because the company “failed to collect all the required samples and did not analyze discharge for iron during the 2012-2013 monitoring year.”
Leah Feldon, manager of DEQ’s Office of Compliance and Enforcement, wrote in the notice of civil penalty that Mount Hood Railroad is required to “monitor benchmark pollutants four times per monitoring period” as well as “impairment pollutants two times per monitoring period.” According to the report, Mount Hood Railroad “failed to conduct sampling and analysis for benchmark pollutants on one occasion at two outfalls,” as well as “failed to conduct sampling and analysis for iron on two occasions at two outfalls.”
Esther Westbrook, environmental law specialist for DEQ, reported that many industries in Oregon are required to monitor their property’s stormwater for pollutants that could trickle into and potentially harm nearby waterways. In the case of Mount Hood Railroad, a permit is required due to the rail line’s proximity to the Hood River.
Westbrook said in addition to the standard stormwater benchmark pollutants Mount Hood Railroad’s permit requires it to monitor, the company must also track levels of “impairment pollutants,” which include copper and iron. She added that the Hood River is already considered an “impaired” body of water by the DEQ, explaining that “there are certain pollutants there that are in higher amounts than we’d like to see.”
According to Westbrook, industries often contract out their stormwater monitoring — a process which usually consists of extracting water samples and sending them to laboratories for analysis. She said she did not know if this was the case with Mount Hood Railroad, but noted the process often “leaves room for mistakes” and added that “it’s not uncommon” for a company to receive these kinds of penalties.
“In most cases, it’s been my experience that this has been chalked up to human error,” Westbrook said.
This is not the first time Mount Hood Railroad has been penalized by DEQ. According to the agency’s records, Mount Hood Railroad received a notice of civil penalty assessment in March 2010 after “failing to collect monitoring data,” and paid $5,266 in fines.
Ron Kaufman, general manager for Mount Hood Railroad, was asked to comment on the violations. He reported that “the matter is under appeal at this time,” and that he had “no additional comments at this time.”
Westbrook, however, stated the appeal deadline had already passed and that DEQ had not received any appeal filing from Mount Hood Railroad. Kaufman was contacted to confirm this, but had not responded as of press time.