ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is proposing a total of $132,000 in fines against two seafood processing companies accused of improperly discharging fish waste from plants in Ketchikan.
The EPA has proposed $77,000 in fines against Wards Cove Packing Co. and $55,000 against NorQuest Seafoods Inc. Both companies are based in Seattle.
EPA officials accuse Wards Cove of failing to route all seafood waste through a waste-handling system, discharging seafood waste exceeding a half-inch in size, accumulating seafood waste not routed through the treatment system on the sea floor beneath the plant, failing to properly operate and maintain all compliance systems, and discharging foam and scum in violation of Alaska water quality standards.
NorQuest was accused of failing to route all seafood waste through a waste-handling system, failing to properly operate and maintain all compliance systems, and improperly discharging foam and scum.
Both companies were inspected in July, EPA officials said.
''Seafood processing is a critical element of Alaska's economy, but it shouldn't be done at the expense of the environment that the seafood industry ultimately depends upon,'' Bub Loiselle, manager of EPA's water quality compliance unit, said in a written statement.
Gordon Williams, president of Wards Cove, said his company has not violated pollution rules and would fight the proposed penalties. The company's attorney is reviewing the EPA complaint, he said.
''We're disposing of our waste in a manner that we feel is proper,'' said Williams. ''We surely haven't changed anything as far as the way we've handled waste in the past. It's just that the EPA has chosen to make this a big issue. We use antifoaming agents and we properly grind the waste and we feel we're in compliance.''
Wards Cove operates a cannery outside of Ketchikan as well as Wards Cove E.C. Phillips, a freezing facility downtown.
Terry Gardiner, president of NorQuest Seafoods, could not be reached for comment late Thursday afternoon.
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