Department of Ecology News Release - Feb. 16, 2022
Repeated water quality violations at the North Pacific Paper Company LLC (NORPAC) mill in Longview led to a $68,000 penalty from the Washington Department of Ecology. Pollution above permitted levels can negatively impact human health and the environment.
Over more than a year, NORPAC failed to properly treat and monitor its stormwater and wastewater, and did not fully address pollution violations at the paper mill when informed by Ecology to take corrective action.
Stormwater and wastewater from the NORPAC facility is treated at neighboring industrial facilities before ultimately being discharged to the Columbia River. Sediments, chemicals, and debris from stormwater and process wastewater can harm aquatic life and reduce water quality. The Columbia River is home to many aquatic species including endangered salmon and steelhead.
Between April 2020 and November 2021, the company failed 71 times to meet pollution limits for solids and organic materials in its process wastewater. In addition, there were pH violations that can be harmful to water quality and fish. Other pollutants were not monitored as frequently as required under the mill’s permit.
NORPAC’s permit requires the company to take corrective action when it does not meet stormwater pollution discharge benchmarks. NORPAC failed to successfully take corrective action to prevent stormwater pollution violations in at least 20 incidents at the plant.
In August 2020, Ecology issued a compliance order to NORPAC for ongoing stormwater violations. The facility was ordered to complete a stormwater characterization study and include the new information in the update to its permit. Ecology found NORPAC’s initial characterization study to be insufficient, and additional revisions failed to address many of the concerns identified.
NORPAC has 30 days to pay or appeal the penalty to the Pollution Control Hearings Board.
Water quality penalty payments are placed into the state’s Coastal Protection Fund, which provides grants to public agencies and tribes for water quality restoration projects.