WASHINGTON—Westward Seafoods Inc., the operator of a seafood processing plant in Dutch Harbor, Alaska, will pay a $570,000 civil penalty as part of a settlement agreement to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Air Act and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act, the Justice Department and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today.
Under the settlement agreement filed in federal court in Alaska, Westward Seafoods, a Seattle-based company, will be required to undertake four measures designed to improve the company’s environmental compliance. The agreement requires the company to create a preventative maintenance and operations plan, develop and implement an annual training plan for all employees responsible for operating generating equipment, develop and submit to EPA an organizational chart that outlines staff that have environmental compliance responsibilities and develop internal procedures for submitting required reports to federal, state and/or local environmental agencies.
The settlement resolves a complaint that alleged that Westward Seafoods had multiple violations of the Clean Air Act from 2002 until 2006. The complaint alleged violations including the burning of approximately 1.3 million gallons of diesel fuel with excessive sulfur; operating three diesel generators while air pollution control devices were inoperable, resulting in excessive emissions of nitrogen oxides; and failing to respond to repeated requests for information from state and federal inspectors.
High sulfur fuel produces higher levels of sulfur dioxide emissions, which has adverse respiratory effects on humans, especially at-risk populations including children, the elderly and asthmatics. Operating the generators without required air control devices caused an increase in nitrogen oxide air pollution, which has adverse respiratory effects on humans and is a leading contributor to ground-level ozone.
The complaint also alleged violations of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act, a law designed to help local communities protect public health, safety and the environment from chemical hazards. The complaint alleged failure to annually report 80,000 pounds of ammonia in use and storage at the Dutch Harbor plant to the State Emergency Response Commission, local fire department and Local Emergency Planning Committee.
"We expect companies that handle hazardous chemicals and operate diesel generators to comply with the law. This settlement is designed to put a system into place that will prevent future violations of the environment and public safety laws," said Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.
"We have laws regulating emissions and chemicals for a reason—these substances can have serious consequences for residents and the environment," said Edward Kowalski, Director of the Office of Compliance and Enforcement in EPA’s Seattle office. "We work closely with the state, and we will act when a facility is not responsive to state requests, or is putting the environment and Alaskans at risk due to unlawful practices."
The consent decree, lodged in the U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and approval by the federal court. A copy of the consent decree is available on the Justice Department Web site at http://www.justice.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html.