ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Three Alaska seafood processing companies have been charged with violating terms of the Clean Water Act.
The Seattle office of Environmental Protection Agency said Alaska General Seafoods of Ketchikan, Trident Seafoods of Ketchikan and Icicle Seafoods of Seward dumped excess seafood processing waste from their discharge pipes in violation of Clean Water Act permits.
''These companies ought to know better,'' said Bub Loiselle, manager of EPA's water quality compliance unit. ''What is allowed and what isn't are clearly stated in the permits under which each company operates, so these violations really are inexcusable.''
Loiselle said the companies could be fined up to $137,500 each, although the agency usually negotiates a settlement.
Bob Nelson, in-house counsel for Trident Seafoods, said the company is investigating the allegations.
''We've been working with EPA and will continue to work with EPA to address these concerns,'' he said.
Seattle offices of the other companies had closed late Tuesday afternoon.
The companies have 30 days to respond to the charges.
Loiselle said all three companies are charged with discharging settleable, or sinking, solids beyond one acre, which violates Alaska water quality standards.
Alaska General and Trident are charged with discharging waste pieces that exceed one-half inch, discharging sludge and other wastes that causes a film, sheen, emulsion or scum on the surface of the water, and discharging wastewater that contains such material. Icicle is charged with the second violation, discharging sludge that causes a scum or sheen.
The latter charges were based on inspections in July. Loiselle said violations are investigated with diver surveys.
According to the EPA complaints, depositing seafood waste in an area greater than one acre damages invertebrate populations and removes dissolved oxygen from overlying waters.
Scum or foam on the surface of the water can increase turbidity and decrease light penetration into the water, reducing the production of organisms on the lower scale of the food chain and decreasing fish food, according to the EPA.
''Seafood processing is a critical element of Alaska's economy, but it shouldn't be done at the expense of the environment around these facilities,'' Loiselle said. ''These companies need to get their acts together.''
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