Suquamish Tribe calls for action after latest Navy sewage spill

The Suquamish Tribe is calling for action after a sewage spill at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard over the weekend dumped 4,000 gallons of waste into Sinclair Inlet.

The tribe says that over the past three years, the Navy has repeatedly released tens of thousands of gallons of sewage into the Puget Sound, contaminating tribal fishery resources.

Suquamish Chairman Leonard Forsman said Thursday he wants the Navy to put proper measures in place to prevent this from happening again.

“I understand the Navy has been trying to manage these,” he said. “But it seems to be a recurring issue.”

Health officials issued an advisory to avoid contact with water in the area through at least Sunday.

At least three spills were reported at the base in 2018, with one found in September believed to have dumped 450,000 gallons of wastewater in Puget Sound over a two-year period because two bathrooms were built incorrectly.

The Navy said in a statement that this most recent spill happened when a pressure sensor broke and the mechanic fixing the sensor mistakenly diverted the flow of wastewater into the water.

Forsman said the tribe has had a good relationship with the Navy through the years but frustration is mounting over this issue.

“We’re very upset that this continues to happen and impacts our sacred water,” he said.

Suzanne Skadowski with the Environmental Protection Agency attributed many of the recent problems with spills to the shipyard’s aging sewer infrastructure.

She said the EPA is working with the Navy for a long-term fix.

The Navy said in its statement that it “takes its responsibility to protect the environment very seriously” and that it will continue to investigate and inform the public as needed.

Forsman said the tribe believes the government should be doing more to fix this matter.

“We just feel they need to get a better handle on this moving forward,” he said. “I would think they need more resources from Congress to address this, because they are obviously working with an antiquated system.”

The Washington state Department of Ecology, the EPA and the Kitsap Public Health department all said they will continue to monitor the water quality in Sinclair Inlet.

If all goes well, the no-contact advisory could be lifted March 10.