News and Press Releases

United States Attorney Jenny A. Durkan
Western District of Washington

Prominent Pierce County Developer Pleads Guilty To Criminal Violation Of Clean Water Act

Bryan Stowe and Stowe Construction Agree to $750,000 in Fines and Community Service Payments

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 12, 2012

           A prominent Sumner, Washington developer and his construction company have pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Tacoma to felony violations of the Clean Water Act. The charges filed against BRYAN STOWE, 65, and STOWE CONSTRUCTION Inc., are the first storm water pollution criminal charges brought in Western Washington.

           Under the terms of the plea agreements, STOWE and STOWE CONSTRUCTION will pay $650,000 in criminal fines and will make a $100,000 payment to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation for environmental projects targeting resources impacted by the illegal discharges. STOWE could be sentenced to up to three years in prison. Both STOWE and the company will be subject to a court imposed storm water compliance plan for all current and future development sites.

          In their plea agreements, the company and STOWE, as president and co-owner of the company, admit they knowingly violated the Construction General Storm Water Permit for the project known as the Rainier Park of Industry, located on West Valley Highway in Sumner, Washington.  Permit violations contributed to two major landslides at the project site in the winter of 2011.  Both slides forced closure of the West Valley Highway.

          Stormwater has been recognized as one of the biggest threats to the health of Puget Sound. Rainwater runoff from developed properties and construction sites contribute a significant amount of pollutants to the wetlands, streams, and rivers that comprise watersheds feeding into Puget Sound.  Runoff from construction sites in particular can compromise the essential filtering functions of wetlands if developers fail to implement and maintain required measures to minimize and prevent pollutants from leaving the site.   
 
         “In the face of all the political will and economic investment to restore the Puget Sound, this rogue developer knowingly, and repeatedly, chose profit over protection,” said Tyler Amon, acting Director of EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division in Washington D.C.  “For more than three years, Mr. Stowe and his construction company ignored the law, devastated salmon habitat and created nightmarish conditions for area drivers. This plea serves as notice to our regional developers ... these are serious environmental crimes that will be vigorously pursued.”

          According to various records filed in the case, BRYAN STOWE, acting on behalf of STOWE CONSTRUCTION, obtained coverage under the Construction Storm Water General Permit for the West Valley Highway site in October 2006. The permit required STOWE CONSTRUCTION to prepare and implement a plan to prevent the discharge of pollutants through use site improvements and practices designed to minimize and eliminate the migration of pollutants from the site to nearby waters. STOWE admits in the plea agreement to failing to install adequate improvements and practices between 2007 and 2011.

          These failures led to significant discharges of pollutants from the site to adjacent wetlands and streams. In addition, the plea agreements acknowledge that weekly site inspection reports and discharge sampling reports intended to assist regulators in assessing the adequacy of site improvement and practices were falsified. State and federal regulators monitoring the West Valley Highway site issued several administrative compliance orders in an unsuccessful effort to bring STOWE and the company into compliance.

           These pleas are the second and third pleas entered in connection with this investigation.  In December 2011, STOWE CONSTRUCTION employee Timothy Barger pleaded guilty to making false statements to government officials. Barger admitted to falsely representing that site improvements and practices had been adequately installed and maintained at the West Valley Highway site. Barger is scheduled for sentencing in September 2012.

          The case was investigated by the Environmental Protection Agency Criminal Investigations Division (EPA-CID) with assistance from the Washington State Department of Ecology and the City of Sumner, Washington.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Matthew Diggs and Jim Oesterle.

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