Dutch Harbor processor settles pollution case

Posted: Thursday, August 14, 2003

ANCHORAGE (AP) A seafood processor operating in Dutch Harbor will pay half of a $105,000 fine to settle air pollution violations.

The other half will be suspended as long as Seattle-based Westward Seafoods Inc. complies with the settlement, state environmental regulators said.

The terms call for Westward to get a new permit and to install more advanced pollution-control technology.

The violations occurred during 2001 and 2002 when the company was swamped with a 40 percent hike in the volume of pollock it was processing, Westward president Greg Baker said. Because it was hit with a surge in fish, Westward needed to use more diesel fuel than usual to create electricity and run the plant.

Diesel combustion creates nitrogen oxide, among other regulated pollutants. Westward's permit allowed it to emit no more than 249 tons of nitrogen oxide per year, but the company exceeded that, Baker said. It reported the violations to the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, as required.

Westward submitted paperwork for a new permit in 2000 that would have allowed increased emissions and new pollution-control technology. But DEC officials found some flaws in the application and requested more information, said Jim Baumgartner, a DEC construction permit supervisor.

The company, owned by Japanese seafood giant Maruha Corp., continued to process fish and exceed its existing permit conditions. There wasn't much it could do, said Dave Boisseau, the plant's environmental compliance manager.

''There's obligations to the fishermen,'' Boisseau told the Anchorage Daily News. All the plants are pretty much (running) at maximum. It would be very difficult to turn around and say 'We can't take your fish.' You can't waste it.''

Both sides said they knew about the situation, and the company was making a good faith effort to come into compliance.

Although Westward was violating its permit, no adverse environmental effects occurred as a result, said Tom Chapple, state air and water quality director.

Chapple said that once a company expands and becomes what regulators called a ''major source'' (of air pollution), oversight becomes more extensive, time-consuming and costly. Firms that emit more than 249 tons of pollution a year have to do all sorts of modeling and analysis of impacts and control technology.

Westward's new permit should be issued within a month, Baumgartner said.

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