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Illegal dumping of lead/arsenic into waterways by SeaSoft

Discussion in 'Scuba Related Court Cases' started by shoredivr, Dec 14, 2018.

  1. shoredivr

    shoredivr Solo Diver

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    Location: Ontario
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  2. RockiesFan

    RockiesFan Solo Diver

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  3. Pedro Burrito

    Pedro Burrito Moderator Staff Member

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    A ScubaBoard Staff Message...

    fixed the title
     
    shoredivr likes this.
  4. JackD342

    JackD342 Dive Shop

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Highland Park, IL
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    From my Inbox:
    I appreciate all of the kind emails I have received since yesterday, thank you. We will live another day. I have already been told that the fine will be "substantially reduced".
     
  5. Bruce Justinen

    Bruce Justinen Dive Equipment Manufacturer

    # of Dives: 5,000 - ∞
    Location: Olympia, WA
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    Part 1

    Hi, this is Bruce Justinen , founder of SEASOFT SCUBA of Olympia, WA. Several days ago we received a call from the WA State Department of Ecology. There were 3 or 4 people on the line.

    I was told verbally that SEASOFT was being fined $197,000 and that a press release was going to be released in an hour and a copy of that press release was going to be emailed to me in a minute. I was told that I could email them a response if I wanted to but that it was going out with or without a response from me.

    I was stunned, dazed and light headed, I could hardly think. I tried to collect my thoughts. I had not talked to anyone from ECOLGY for at least 2.5 months and had no idea anything like this was coming. So let me start from the beginning. This may be more information that you want but I think you deserve to know all of the truth if you choose to.
    ____________

    WA STATE LABOR & INDUSTRIES

    On July 5th, 2018 I was on my 6 week summer sales trip and was in Albuquerque, NM when I got a call from my office manager. An inspector from WA St. Labor & Industries (L&I) was in our building and she was swabbing the surface areas of the kitchen, bathroom floor, and bathroom countertops. Since results would not be forthcoming for weeks she was also using a swab that turned red if there was lead present.

    All the swabs turned red. Now I had her on the phone. "I cannot determine how much lead is present and I would like you to shut down until we can determine if the levels are safe or not."

    I have learned after 35 years that you never tell the government no so I told my manager to secure everything and that I would head home immediately.

    On the way home I was on the phone with L & I for hours trying to negotiate the conditions whereby we could reopen with their blessing.

    The original inspector insisted that I have the entire factory professionally cleaned. I called a few places and the cheapest I could find was $16,000 to just have a company "HEPA vacuum" the factory.

    I finally spoke with the head of that division of L&I and we finally struck a deal.

    1. I would have all of my employees blood drawn on Monday to check their Blood Lead Serum levels for lead exposure and if ALL of the employees had normal/acceptable levels we were go.

    AND

    2. If we thoroughly cleaned the factory eating and bathroom area to insure it was safe since we did not have the results back from the tests.

    If we put both of those together then we were OK to reopen.

    We cleaned all day Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, we decided it didn't hurt to clean the whole place and do some re-organization, move things around to make us more efficient etc.
     
    dead dog, enduser, Sh0rtBus and 4 others like this.
  6. Bruce Justinen

    Bruce Justinen Dive Equipment Manufacturer

    # of Dives: 5,000 - ∞
    Location: Olympia, WA
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    Part 2

    Thursday the blood tests came back and EVERYONE had normal/acceptable levels and we were back in business on Friday the 13th of July, 2018.

    ERROR #1: The PRESS RELEASE from the Dept. of Ecology says: "The state departments of Health and Labor & Industries are working with Seasoft employees to determine how much lead and arsenic they were exposed to and what health effects the toxic chemicals may have had on them or their families.

    Less than an hour before this press release was released I wrote the communication director the following: "Are you changing the third to last paragraph? (About SEASOFT EMPLOYEES) It is grossly misleading when you now know that all of the employees tested as having acceptable levels of lead in their bloodstream. I can email you these results, all you have to do is ask for them before this goes out. Just give me time to provide you with this information.
    If you want honesty, fairness and integrity then please rephrase at least part of this release."


    The director never replied. The public deserved to know that these employees were safe and not in any danger. ECOLOGY left the impression that they were in imminent danger even 6 months later. A PRESS RELEASE is supposed to provide the public with factual, truthful information so that they are aware of what the Dept. of Ecology is doing. This press release is sensationalized and full of untruths. We will reveal more later.
    ______________
    The results came back later on the lead tests for surfaces - we failed on the bathroom sink, the toilet seat, and the bathroom floor. We easily passed the kitchen countertops and the kitchen sink countertops. One of the reasons I think we failed is because I had been gone for almost 3 weeks and let's be honest, they don't clean when I am gone like they do when I am there.

    L & I came back on August 2, 2018 and rechecked different surfaces but in the same areas. We passed 7 out of 8 of those surface tests. They also did an air test while we filled our lead products and we easily passed that as well.

    ERROR #2: The PRESS RELEASE from the Dept. of Ecology says L & I:"found that lead dust was present on many exposed surfaces inside Seasoft Scuba’s northwest Lacey warehouse, including unsold merchandise, table tops, walls, and employee eating areas."

    This is simply not true. The reader of this is left with the impression that you could take your finger and draw "WASH ME" on a table surface because the lead dust was so thick. It was not. L & I did not check any merchandise or tabletops or walls and these are simply fabrications on the part of ECOLOGY. The L & I inspector was in SEASOFT yesterday, Dec. 12, 2108 and she assured us that she did not supply ECOLOGY with this information.
     
  7. Bruce Justinen

    Bruce Justinen Dive Equipment Manufacturer

    # of Dives: 5,000 - ∞
    Location: Olympia, WA
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    Part 3

    WA STATE DEPT. of ECOLOGY

    Background:

    We used to buy reclaimed lead shot because it is all we could get, new lead shot is scarce in bulk. We would tumble it to remove the corrosion and then we would graphite it to make it like new.

    Then we found a supplier that could supply us with new lead and we stopped using reclaimed lead. BUT what we started doing a few years ago was taking back old SEASOFT products and turning that old lead into new lead.

    When we tumble the old lead we mix in about 1.5 gallons of water to "wash" and aid the lead to remove the old corrosive layer. It takes about 15 minutes to do this. We then pour off the water and pour it into barrels where the lead corrosives sink to the bottom and we siphon off the crystal clear water on the top.

    However, if your employees do not wait for the water to settle and they siphon the water off with lead corrosives in the water you are contaminating the soil. We did that over about 3-6 months. I am not sure how long. I hire vets and folks who have just been released from prison. Someone needs to give them a second chance but it can have its challenges. It was two of those guys who siphoned off the dirty water.

    However, this water contained only about the equivalence of 3 to 5 twelve gauge shotgun shells, that is what one of the clean up engineers told me. It was more about the contamination of a 15 X 25 foot area than it was about the quantity of lead present. And the contamination was no deeper than 12 inches. It never got into the water supply or sewer system, it was self contained where it took place and it was cleaned up and removed by October.

    SEASOFT did not purposely do this, we are responsible for it, we accept that but there is a difference between being responsible and choosing to take this course of action.

    ECOLOGY's PRESS RELEASE also alludes to 3 other areas of "contamination".

    1. It refers to a "dumping" area. This is where we put our garbage including the empty 55 gallon drums that our lead comes in. They found about 2 or 3 tablespoons of lead shot where we stored our empty 55 gallon drums that the lead shot had come in.

    2. It refers to a "mixing" area and the surface of the parking lot. These are one and the same, the immediate area right in front of our large overhead door is where we clean the lead in the tumbler and some can spill and does spill and we have to stay on it but it isn't like the guys aren't aware of it. But Ecology drives up and assumes that we are simply going to leave it there. We would never do this. After they cited us we did a thorough vacuuming of the parking area and we collected approximately 3 tablespoons of lead shot.

    3. The parking area runs downhill in front of our overhead door and lead to a manhole and cover. During downpours and when we are cleaning the parking area lead shot will roll downhill and end up against the manhole cover. We cleaned this up and it was about a tablespoon of lead shot.

    A small amount of lead did enter the manhole and was captured in the catchment basin. This was cleaned out during the cleanup in October. No lead migrated out of the catchment basin and no lead migrated outside of this area.

    So altogether our spill was approximately 1 to possibly as high as two lbs. of lead. BUT we did contaminate the brush area beside our building within 15 feet of the adjacent property.

    No excuses, we did it, we are responsible BUT should that be worth anywhere near $197,000?
     
  8. Bruce Justinen

    Bruce Justinen Dive Equipment Manufacturer

    # of Dives: 5,000 - ∞
    Location: Olympia, WA
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    Part 4

    Now, here is where the train goes off the tracks, the blatant dishonesty of ECOLOGY.

    ERROR # 3: The PRESS RELEASE HEADLINE READS "...Illegally dumping lead and arsenic."

    Arsenic? Does it not sound like we dumped two things? Sure does. They don't bother informing the public that lead shot has a hardener called antimony that has approximately .25%, yes, there is a PERIOD in there, of arsenic. In other words, ECOLOGY took 5 samples at our site and only ONE tested positive for arsenic but that did not stop them from putting it in their headline.

    Then there is the use of the word "dumping". Ask yourself "What mental image do I see when I hear the word "dumping"? Do I see 1 or 2 lbs. of lead shot? Do I see a garden hose slowly siphoning off mostly clear water or do I see wheelbarrows, buckets and barrels of lead and wastes being discarded in the dark?

    Here is what I wrote to the communication director: "I assume that you intend for your press release to be truthful and factual and to not be sensationalized. Am I correct to assume this? As a communication expert you realize that words draw pictures in the mind, that create what we refer to as "word pictures". When you use the term "dumping", it implies a large amount and it implies intent, both of which SEASOFT is not guilty of. The geologist said that the lead spilled in the soil was the equivalent of 3 to 5 shotgun shells of lead. This is certainly not "dumping".

    ____________________
    I was told I could provide a quote for the press release so I sent the following:

    Press Release from SEASOFT SCUBA GEAR INC. Please include this with your press release.

    "Immediately after the investigation was launched SEASOFT SCUBA changed all of its lead handling protocols, cleaned its facility, ceased the handling of all corroded lead shot, and had all of its employees blood levels checked for lead exposure. The results of the employee's testing revealed that all SEASOFT's employees were found to be within normal/acceptable levels for lead exposure.

    The site, under the supervision of a knowledgable contractor and the Department of Ecology, has already been cleaned and the contaminated material has been removed to a hazardous waste facility for treatment and elimination. Bruce Justinen, President of SEASOFT SCUBA stated that "We know that this is a serious matter and we have sought the guidance of both Labor and Industry and the Department of Ecology to insure that we continue to operate in a safe and lawful manner."

    I was referring to the fact that we take this seriously because:

    1. We had already checked our employees to make sure they were safe.
    2. Changed all our protocols so that we simply never repeated ANY of the mistakes we had made.
    3. We had already finished the clean up of the site, mostly done by the landlord.

    ERROR # 4: ECOLOGY's response was stunning. "I cannot confirm that the site has “already been cleaned.”

    I responded to them immediately.

    "However, the fact that you folks are not even aware of whether the site has been cleaned or not cleaned yet is disturbing. You are releasing this press release when you don't know. Wouldn't it be prudent, considering something as important as this, to know for sure? A phone call to the contractor or a site inspection first."

    NO answer!
     
  9. Bruce Justinen

    Bruce Justinen Dive Equipment Manufacturer

    # of Dives: 5,000 - ∞
    Location: Olympia, WA
    101
    114
    28
    Part 5

    ERROR # 4: The press release as it stands was released one hour later. But one last thing sticks out. Remember that I said in SEASOFT's Press Release that "...has already been cleaned and the contaminated material has been removed..."

    ECOLOGY doesn't want you to think that it was finished back in October. No, that's not worth $197,000. So they changed my quote to: "... has already begun to be cleaned and contaminated material has..."

    Notice that ALREADY BEEN CLEANED has been changed to ALREADY BEGUN TO BE CLEANED.

    Totally different meaning right? So there you have it. I apologize if I have let any of you down. For 35 years we have tried to be a good citizen, we have worked hard, innovated, competed and done our best! Thanks for listening.

    We have now obtained legal counsel and realize, with a fearful heart, that we are fighting the government. Say a prayer for us.
     
    dead dog, KWS, Sh0rtBus and 3 others like this.
  10. BRT

    BRT Orca

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    This is what I thought had happened. I couldn't believe you were dumping waste willy nilly. I'm so sorry. I have had to deal with Washington State on other issues and their main focus is revenue collection.
     
    Sh0rtBus and CuzzA like this.

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