Bryan Stowe takes $750,000 plea deal for Clean Water Act violations

Bryan Stowe of Sumner pleaded guilty Thursday to felony charges on behalf of himself and his company, Stowe Construction Inc. Stowe, 65, and his company are liable for $750,000 in punitive fines for felony violations of the Clean Water Act.

Under the plea agreement, President and co-owner Stowe admitted to knowingly violating the Construction General Storm Water Permit for the Rainier Park of Industry project located on West Valley Highway. The violations contributed to two major landslides at the project site in the 2011 winter season, causing highway closures. Stowe may face up to three years in prison when sentenced in September, according to the United States Attorney's Office of the Western District of Washington.

Stowe obtained West Valley Highway site coverage under the storm water permit in October 2006. The permit required his company to prepare and implement a plan to prevent pollution discharge into nearby waters. Stowe admitted to failing to install adequate improvements and practices between 2007 and 2011.

Significant discharges of pollutants from the site to wetlands and streams occurred during that time period, the Attorney's Office reported. The plea agreements acknowledged site inspection reports and discharge sampling reports had been falsified.

Stowe Construction ran afoul of state regulatory bodies several times, including once in February 2009 when the Department of Ecology levied a $36,000 fine for violations of its storm water permit.

"For more than three years, Mr. Stowe and his construction company ignored the law, devastated salmon habitat and created nightmarish conditions for area drivers," said Tyler Amon, acting Director of the Environmental Protection Agency's  Criminal Investigation Division. "This plea serves as notice to our regional developers… these are serious environmental crimes that will be vigorously pursued."

The pleas made Thursday are the second and third for the investigation. Employee Timothy Barger pleaded guilty in December to making false statements to government officials, in relation to false representations of adequate site improvements and practices.

The $750,000 Stowe must pay include $650,000 in criminal fines and a $100,000 payment to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation for environmental projects correcting resources tainted by illegal discharges.

The case was investigated by EPA's Criminal Investigation Division, with assistance from the state Department of Ecology and the City of Sumner.

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