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Port Townsend Paper mill fined $30,000; problems corrected, say Ecology, mill reps

PORT TOWNSEND, Washington (From the Daily News) -- The Port Townsend Paper Co. mill has been fined $30,000 by the state Department of Ecology for two incidents in 2016 that led to emissions from the plant bypassing its control systems.

Neither incident was deemed a threat to human health and the plant has fixed conditions that led to the emissions releases, according to Andrew Wineke, Ecology spokesman, and Felix Vicino, human resources manager for the mill.

"Port Townsend Paper has made improvements to its procedures that should help to prevent similar problems in the future," said James DeMay, manager of Ecology's Industrial Section, in a news release issued Wednesday.

Corrosion led to a release in August 2016, said Ecology and mill representatives. A 1-inch hole had formed in a duct. That hole allowed small particle pollution to leak out, bypassing the mill's control systems.

"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," Wineke said in Ecology's news release.

"Because of the difficulty in reaching and repairing the leak, it was not fixed until the plant shut down for scheduled maintenance in September," Wineke said.

Vicino, as well as mill manager Mike Craft, issued statements saying the leak was fixed in a timely manner.

"It was one of those once-in-a-blue-moon things," Vicino said. "We've upped the inspection process so that duct gets inspected more regularly."

Vicino said he was not sure how often the ducts are inspected as of now.

The second emissions release was in November, when a damper on one of the plant's main exhaust stacks became stuck.

"Routine testing revealed the issue, and the plant corrected the problem after receiving the results," Wineke said.

Vicino said the part that caused the damper to stick was replaced immediately after the company received test results.

The plant also has increased the number of inspections performed on the exhaust dampers, Vicino said.

Vicino said the mill has put safeguards in place, mainly the increased inspections, to ensure such problems won't reoccur.

Port Townsend Paper has 30 days to appeal the $30,000 fine to the state's Pollution Control Hearings Board.

Vicino had no comment concerning whether the company would pursue that option.

"These issues were corrected in a timely manner and we have made the necessary improvements to prevent a re-occurrence," Craft said in Wineke's news release.

"We appreciate Ecology's cooperation and acknowledgment that the release did not pose a threat to human health."

Port Townsend Paper, the largest private employer in Jefferson County, produces Kraft pulp, paper, containerboard and specialty products by blending virgin and recycled fibers at the mill.

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