CAMAS — Threats of a lawsuit have put a damper on the Lacamas Creek Watershed Committee, an ad hoc group created in 2020 to investigate and advise the city of Camas on water quality topics related to the Lacamas Creek Watershed and the city’s Lacamas, Round and Fallen Leaf lakes.
City leaders say they have temporarily halted the committee’s activities after receiving notice last week that someone intends to sue the city, as well as the Lacamas Shores Homeowners Association over what he contends is a failure to maintain a biofilter on the shores of Lacamas Lake.
In a statement released Tuesday, Camas Communications Director Bryan Rachal said Steven D. Bang, a resident of Camas’ Lacamas Shores subdivision, had served the city, as well as the homeowners association and members of the ad hoc watershed advisory committee, with notice that he intends to file a suit under the federal Clean Water Act.
“The city understands the magnitude of such a lawsuit and intends to pursue all available avenues to defend the claim,” Rachal stated in the news release.
In his notice, Bang contends the homeowners association and the city have violated federal law “by discharging pollutants from the Lacamas Shores biofilter treatment facility … into Lacamas Lake and its adjoining wetlands without a discharge permit … since at least Sept. 23, 2020.”
The notice contends the association’s biofilter “was initially properly maintained and effectively removed nutrients and solids from storm water runoff,” but subsequently “fell into disrepair.”
“Specifically, the ‘filter’ component of the biofilter — namely, the grasses and aquatic plants that sequester pollutants — has not been maintained because the homeowners association has not conducted the required management and harvesting of vegetation,” the notice states.
“High-filtering, tightly knit and easily removable grasses have been crowded out by tree shadow, which prevents vegetation and contaminant removal. Leaves and dead plants in the biofilter litter the ground every year, discharging pollutants, including phosphates and nitrogen, into the natural forested wetlands and Lacamas Lake.
Bang contends the city and the HOA “have been on notice of these violations for years,” with the HOA allegedly approaching the city in 2016 about the biofilter.
City officials and staff in Camas have said the lakes’ problems, including those involving toxic algae, are related to more than one biofilter.
“The environmental condition of Lacamas Lake includes more than a singular source point, and any attempt at a comprehensive resolution by necessity would involve the input of a number of parties and jurisdictions,” Rachel stated in the news release regarding Bang’s intent to sue the city.