(Seattle) — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has helped deliver safe drinking water to the residents of the apartment complex at 1117 Chugach Way in Anchorage, where the building’s owner, Trudy Tush, had ignored years of effort by the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation to get her to fix an arsenic-contaminated well that had long been the resident’s sole water supply.
Tush also ignored a 2014 EPA order compelling her to comply with the basic requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Act.
Arsenic is a known carcinogen, with long-term exposure through drinking water linked to cancer of the bladder, lungs, skin, kidneys, nasal passages, liver, and prostate. It can also negatively affect cardiovascular, pulmonary, neurological, immunological, and endocrine systems.
At no time did Tush provide the required notice to her approximately 360 total residents over the years that the water she supplied contained levels of arsenic exceeding the amount allowed by law. EPA testing showed that the water exceeded the legal maximum contaminant level by over 50 percent.
In April of this year the EPA filed a Safe Drinking Water Act complaint against Tush, seeking $588,684 for years of violating the SDWA. The U.S. District Court for Alaska upheld the full penalty in a judgment in August.
Operators of public drinking water systems in Alaska – those with more than 15 service connections — are required to regularly test their systems for a variety of contaminants — including arsenic– and provide the results to ADEC. Tush ignored ADEC’s attempts to get her to comply with these requirements, so in 2014 ADEC requested that the EPA attempt to get her to comply. Tush subsequently ignored EPA’s efforts to communicate with her, and ignored an EPA order to supply records to the agency and ADEC.
Despite ignoring all government attempts to reach her, in 2017 EPA was made aware of attempts by Tush to connect the apartment to Anchorage’s drinking water supply. EPA then worked with ADEC, and contractors to disconnect Tush’s arsenic-contaminated well and connect the apartment to the city’s water supply.
“The Safe Drinking Water Act is among the most critical public health laws in the nation,” said Ed Kowalski, Director of EPA’s Region 10 Office of Compliance and Enforcement. “Everyone relies on rigid compliance with the Act to keep from getting sick. Owners of public wells have taken on a particularly important responsibility to comply with the law because failure to do so can risk people’s lives. In this case, Ms. Tush ignored the problems with her water supply and thus put her tenants’ health at risk. There’s no excuse for this negligent behavior.”
The penalty assessed by the EPA — and upheld by the Alaska District Court — reflects Ms. Tush’s willful unresponsiveness to years of effort by ADEC and EPA, the clear failure to sample, notify the public, or fix long-term violations of the arsenic standard, and her prolonged obfuscation in the face of EPA demands that she comply with the Safe Drinking Water Act.
Legal documents from the EPA case against Ms. Tush are here: