The Washington Department of Ecology is fining Intalco Aluminum LLC $27,500 for air pollution. The Ferndale facility exceeded its air permit 11 different times in 2017 and 2018. As a result, more fluoride and particulate matter was put into the air and surrounding environment.
The pollution stems from disruption in Intalco’s manufacturing process, as the facility trained new personnel to replace experienced staff members who left ahead of a planned shutdown in 2016, which was later cancelled.
Ecology toxicologists analyzed Intalco’s excess fluoride and particulate emissions that caused these violations and found they did not represent a threat to human health. However, releasing pollution above the limits in Intalco’s air quality permit impacts the environment and violates the law. In general, short-term exposure to fluoride in the air can cause irritation to nose, lungs, skin, and eyes. Particle pollution affects the airways and lungs. Children, the elderly, and those with chronic heart and lung disease (like asthma, bronchitis, and emphysema) are especially susceptible.
“There are always potential consequences from excess emissions. That’s why we have standards that are protective of people and the environment,” said James DeMay, manager of Ecology’s Industrial Section, which regulates Intalco’s air emissions. “It’s important that Intalco properly maintain and operate their facility to protect air quality and the surrounding area.”
Since the violations, Intalco has made progress: The facility’s emissions returned to compliance with the fluoride limits in May 2018, although it is still taking steps to come into compliance with its particulate emissions limits.
The company can appeal the penalty within 30 days to the state’s Pollution Control Hearings Board.