Department of Ecology News Release - July 12, 2023

Tacoma mill settles air permit violation


WestRock Tacoma reached a settlement agreement with the Washington Department of Ecology for a penalty and compliance order issued in December 2022 for a violation of the company’s air quality permit.

WestRock’s air quality permit requires them to use their wastewater system to treat hazardous air pollutants – primarily methanol – dissolved in certain wastewater streams generated during the paper-making process. Treatment of these pollutants in the wastewater system prevents them from being released into the air. WestRock demonstrates compliance with the requirement by performing periodic performance tests.

During a performance test on April 17, 2022, results indicated that WestRock failed to sufficiently reduce the amount of hazardous air pollutants to meet levels set in the company’s air quality permit. WestRock demonstrated compliance with the limits during a subsequent performance test on May 11, 2022. There have been no further violations.

Ecology initially fined WestRock $52,500 for the incident. In the settlement, the company agrees to pay a penalty of $32,000. They will also complete a performance study, included in the original compliance order, to establish new wastewater treatment plant operating conditions that must be met between performance tests. The new operating conditions will indicate proper treatment of hazardous air pollutants at the wastewater treatment plant.

Hazardous air pollutants can endanger public health. Sensitive groups like children, adults over 65, and people with respiratory issues are particularly vulnerable to these types of pollutants.

Contact information

Jeff Zenk
Twitter: ecySW