Illegal Construction Project in Lewis County Causes Water Pollution and Environmental Damage

Landowner Penalized for Repeated Water Quality Violations

An illegal construction project in Lewis County, Washington, has resulted in polluted water flowing into Klickitat Creek and causing significant environmental damage. The landowner, Isaac West, has been penalized by the Washington Department of Ecology for repeated water quality violations. The project, which took place between November 2022 and June 2023, led to mudslides, unsafe conditions, damage to county roads, and the contamination of a neighbor’s drinking water well. This article will explore the details of the violations, the impact on the environment, and the actions taken by authorities.

Negligence and Violations Lead to Water Pollution

Despite receiving technical assistance and warning letters, Isaac West failed to acquire a construction stormwater permit, stabilize soils, and install pollution prevention controls. The Department of Ecology and Lewis County inspectors documented numerous instances of muddy water flowing from the construction site into a drainage ditch that leads to Klickitat Creek. Groundwater springs on the property were also found to be polluted. These violations resulted in the discharge of large amounts of sediment and highly turbid water, exceeding state limits for water quality.

Environmental Impact and Endangered Aquatic Life

Water samples collected from the site revealed extremely high levels of turbidity, indicating cloudiness caused by sediment and other pollutants. This excessive turbidity poses a threat to aquatic life, particularly salmon and trout, and reduces overall water quality. The pollution of Klickitat Creek and its tributaries can have far-reaching consequences for the ecosystem, disrupting the delicate balance of the local environment. The damage caused by the illegal construction project has endangered the survival of various species and compromised the overall health of the waterways.

Penalties and Mitigation Efforts

In response to the repeated water quality violations, the Washington Department of Ecology has imposed a penalty of $168,000 on Isaac West. This financial penalty aims to hold the landowner accountable for the environmental damage caused by his construction activities. Additionally, the penalty payment will be directed to the state’s Coastal Protection Fund, which provides grants for water quality restoration projects to public agencies and Tribes. The Department of Ecology’s actions are supported by Lewis County, whose officials have expressed concerns about the safety of neighboring residents, water quality protection, and the prevention of further environmental impacts.

Legal Options and Appeals

Isaac West has been given 30 days to pay the penalty or appeal the decision to the state Pollution Control Hearings Board. This allows him the opportunity to present his case and contest the imposed penalty. The appeal process will determine whether the penalty is upheld or modified based on the evidence and arguments presented by both parties. The outcome of the appeal will have significant implications for West and the future mitigation efforts required to restore the affected area.


The illegal construction project in Lewis County has had severe consequences for water quality and the local ecosystem. Isaac West’s repeated water quality violations, including the discharge of sediment and highly turbid water, have endangered aquatic life and compromised the overall health of Klickitat Creek and its tributaries. The penalties imposed by the Washington Department of Ecology aim to hold the landowner accountable for his actions and support water quality restoration efforts. Moving forward, it is crucial for individuals and authorities to prioritize responsible construction practices to protect the environment and ensure the well-being of local communities.






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