The Port Townsend Paper Corp. (PTPC) has been fined $30,000 by the state Department of Ecology for two emissions violations in 2016. It was the largest fine the mill has received since 1991, when it …
The Port Townsend Paper Corp. (PTPC) has been fined $30,000 by the state Department of Ecology for two emissions violations in 2016. It was the largest fine the mill has received since 1991, when it was fined $20,000 for a water-quality violation.
Ecology spokesman Andrew Wineke said Monday that state inspectors observed the Aug. 19, 2016 pollution release during an unannounced inspection, and that a Nov. 10 release was found by mill staff as a result of a routine test and was reported to Ecology by mill employees.
Ecology assessed a $20,000 fine for the August release and a $10,000 fine for the November release. The mill has 30 days from April 18 to appeal the fines to the state Pollution Control Hearings Board.
Mill spokesman Felix Vicino said Monday that mill officials are still reviewing the state’s decision and haven’t decided whether to appeal.
Vicino acknowledged that it is the first fine for the mill’s new owners, Crown Paper Group, which bought the mill in 2015.
In the first pollution incident, in August, a 1-inch hole in a duct of the plant’s recovery furnace allowed small-particle pollution and other emissions to escape, Ecology officials said.
“The leak represented less than 1 percent of the plant’s emissions, and an assessment by an Ecology toxicologist indicated it did not pose a threat to human health,” Ecology officials said.
Regarding that incident, Vicino said the leak likely occurred the night before an inspection and was noted by both Ecology and mill officials.
“Port Townsend Paper has made improvements to its procedures that should help to prevent similar problems in the future,” James DeMay, manager of Ecology’s Industrial Section, which regulates the plant, said in a press release. “Proper maintenance and oversight of emissions equipment is an essential part of operating a pulp and paper mill.”
In the second incident, in November, a damper in one of the plant’s main exhaust stacks became stuck, allowing some of the emissions to escape, resulting in violation of the mill’s air operating permit. Routine testing revealed the problem, and the mill corrected the problem after receiving the results.
Wineke said that the results of the Nov. 10 test weren’t received by the mill until Dec. 5.
“These issues were corrected in a timely manner, and we have made the necessary improvements to prevent a reoccurrence,” Mike Craft, mill manager at Port Townsend Paper, was quoted as saying in a press release from Ecology. “We appreciate Ecology’s cooperation and acknowledgment that the release did not pose a threat to human health.”
Both the mill and Ecology issued similarly worded press releases with identical quotations.
In a follow-up email response to The Leader from Ecology, Wineke said that the mill was fined $20,000 in October 1991 for a water-quality violation.
“Our records do not include any larger fines,” Wineke wrote.
FIRST FOR CROWN
This is the first fine for the mill under its new owner, Crown Paper Group, which bought the plant in early 2015.
Steve Klinger, Crown Paper Group CEO, said in January of this year that investors plan to pump $25 million in capital and maintenance upgrades and improvements into the mill in 2017.
“We are committed to continually improving this mill and building its long-term value,” Klinger told The Leader.
Although the mill was fined in 2017 for events that occurred in 2016, the number of odor complaints Ecology received in 2016 dropped from 2015.
Ecology received 244 odor complaints about the mill in 2016, down from 2015, when it received 445 odor complaints related to the mill, according to Wineke. In 2014, there were 567 complaints, and in 2013, there were 340 complaints.
Vicino said that there was no correlation between the release incidents that generated the fines and any community complaints about odors.
“There was never any input/complaints from the community regarding these instances,” Vicino said. “Neither incident had any impact at all with respect to odor.”
Odor is mostly associated with the 33-acre runoff pond, not the tall limekiln stacks, which actually are pumping out steam.
The mill makes about 901 tons of paper, containerboard and unbleached pulp a day. The water used by the mill is treated and discharged into Port Townsend Bay.
The mill has a number of permits, including an air operating permit and a wastewater permit, which can be accessed at