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BNSF to pay $75,000 for polluting Whatcom and Skagit waters

Debris, including fill and creosote pilings are shown in and near the water at Chuckanut Bay in this August 2013 photo, according to the Department of Ecology.
Debris, including fill and creosote pilings are shown in and near the water at Chuckanut Bay in this August 2013 photo, according to the Department of Ecology. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

BNSF railroad will pay a $75,000 penalty for placing creosote-treated railroad ties and other materials in local waters during work in Whatcom and Skagit counties in 2013 and 2014, according to the Department of Ecology.

BNSF was originally to be fined $86,000 for four water quality violations, but the Department of Ecology reduced the penalty in a settlement agreement.

Under that agreement, BNSF agrees to get seasoned ties or ties that won’t drip preservative, stage and store new ties in areas where they are less likely to contact water, and take reasonable care to make sure ties stay in place and don’t roll down nearby embankments while being unloaded.

Officials say creosote-treated wood is toxic to aquatic life, and Washington state has invested millions of dollars removing creosote-treated wood from waterways.

Ecology and BNSF will pick a project in the South Fork of the Nooksack River or near shore marine environment in Whatcom or Skagit to get $45,000 of the fine, and the other $30,000 will go into Ecology’s coastal protection fund.

Samantha Wohlfeil: 360-715-2274, @SAWohlfeil

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