Reaction to the Port Townsend Paper Mill’s proposal to replace its corrugated cardboard pulper seemed tilted toward the negative during a public hearing June 25.
The paper mill’s proposal would replace the existing batch tub pulper, which has a maximum capacity of 480 oven-dried tons of pulp per day, with a continuous pulper whose capacity is 720 tons.
Washington State Department of Ecology’s public hearing concerned the mill’s request for a permit to increase emissions of pollutants.
Shingo Yamazaki, environmental engineer with the Department, explained to the room of two or three dozen that the pulp mill portion is separate from the kraft mill, which employs sulfur products to create pulp.
Yamazaki noted the new pulper would increase air pollutant emissions, including organic compounds and ozone by 0.8 tons each per year, and toxic air pollutants by 0.4 tons per year, but it is not expected to increase the odors from the mill.
Yamazaki estimated the paper mill consumes between 10 to 12 million gallons of water a day, which the new pulper is expected to reduce by half a million gallons per day.
Glen Cove resident Pete Langley acknowledged the boost that the presence of the paper mill had brought to the local economy, and even credited the paper mill with making possible the establishment of a local hospital. At the same time, Langley expressed concerns over how emissions from the paper mill might affect area residents’ quality of life.
Debra Ellers described herself as a “full-time resident” of Port Townsend, who reported experiencing throat irritation and watery eyes due to the paper mill’s current emissions, and voiced fears that an additional four trucks a day would increase greenhouse gas emissions.
“How many trucks do we already have on the roads, because of the paper mill?” Ellers asked, while calling for a “full environmental study.” “How much traffic congestion and wear and tear to the roads will these new trucks contribute?”
Fellow Port Townsend resident Gretchen Brewer voiced similar concerns about truck traffic to the paper mill, and while she acknowledged the reduction in water use that’s projected to result from the upgrade, she still believes believes the mill uses, and pollutes, too much.
Brewer was joined by Jesse Hoffman in echoing Langley’s call to eliminate the need for the kraft mill, with Hoffman recommending the use of hemp fiber as an ingredient in the pulp, as well as the use of “bio-pulping” as a method, to reduce reliance on hazardous chemicals.
Doug Chartier described himself as a neighbor of the paper mill, and gave the mill its due as a contributor of jobs to the city, but he quickly added that the county, city and Boat Haven are responsible for even greater numbers of jobs.
Chartier expressed the belief that supervisory agencies are underestimating the impact of the sulfur products used in the kraft mill, and concluded by saying that the paper mill, “for the past 90 years, has been raping the city of Port Townsend.”
Peter Herring, a resident of Taylor Street, reported that his and his wife’s breathing problems have grown severe since they moved here. He criticized the Department of Ecology’s process as “backward,” saying it places “the burden of proof” on those who are concerned about projects introducing new chemicals to the environment.
Herring suggested the mill could be “a better neighbor” by upgrading all aging systems. “We can solve this in a way that’s not combative,” Herring said. “I’d love to stay in Port Townsend.”
With negotiations for the paper mill’s water contract coming up, Mary Missig suggested the city of Port Townsend could use its water rights as “leverage.”
Joe Breskin submitted the final public comment of the evening, and one of the most positive comments toward the proposed upgrade, saying he was “generally in favor” of it, and asserting that the paper mill’s existing level of water recycling is “phenomenal.” He agreed increased emissions are the proposal’s “dark side,” but overall, the upgrade seemed to him a step “in the right direction.”