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Georgia-Pacific Toledo, Oregon facility fined for air, water pollution

OREGON (From news reports) -- The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality recently fined Georgia-Pacific's Toledo mill about $62,000 for alleged air and water quality violations, some dating back two years.

A Sept. 29 press release from DEQ announced the penalty and 18 others issued during August. The largest that month, $136,845, was handed to Dave's Killer Bread, of Milwaukie, for air quality violations.

A letter from DEQ's Office of Compliance and Enforcement dated Aug. 9 cites violations beginning Sept. 2, 2020, when the mill violated its particulate matter limit for 10 days at its lime kilns. Then, from Nov. 13 to 16 of that year, the facility failed to operate enough aerators in its wastewater treatment pond or monitor its aerators to ensure required reduction of methanol and other air pollutants, according to the agency's letter.

"Based on your investigation to date, the source of the kraft mill black liquor was a mill pipe that was discharging to the ground near a break in the stormwater pipe," the DEQ letter reads.

The agency told Georgia-Pacific it appreciated the company's efforts to correct or minimize the impact of the violations by performing testing and maintenance on the lime kilns, testing the treatment pond and updating the aerator monitoring system, and improving other equipment.

"In addition, DEQ appreciates that you plugged the stormwater pipe and stopped the discharge of black liquor to Depot Slough on the day it was discovered, and you initiated an investigation into the mill pipe that was the source of the kraft mill black liquor," the agency's letter reads, noting it took those efforts into account when determining the civil penalty.

Georgia-Pacific appealed the penalty Aug. 30 and later settled for the full amount, a DEQ spokesperson said. The settlement requires payment in 14 days and additional corrective actions.

In an emailed statement, company public affairs manager Jonathan Farmer said they technically submitted an appeal to ask for more time to finalize the investigation of the black liquor leak.

"While we did, as praised in the DEQ 's communication, quickly identify and mitigate that event, there were compounding outside failures that allowed the leak to take the route that it did into the identified water source," Farmer said. "In order to give the most thorough and conclusive report that we can, we requested an extension of the 90-day timeframe to be moved out to the end of January. We were subsequently awarded that extension and were even given the option to extend again, if needs be."

"After a power outage and subsequent surge had damaged a number of aerators in our ponds, we briefly ran below our designated threshold until the sustained damage was identified and repaired," he said. "So, while no emissions violations were confirmed the potential opportunity was there and we reported that possible hazard in an effort to be as transparent as possible."

In October 2020, DEQ fined Georgia-Pacific $63,000 for air emission violations that occurred the previous year. The company eventually negotiated a settlement of about $56,000, then invested $44,640 to install three electric vehicle charging stations in Toledo, as a Supplemental Environmental Project, offsetting the fine that amount and paying the balance.

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