Westward to pay USD 2 million for air violations
Westward Seafoods, a Seattle, Washington, U.S.A.-based division of Maruha Nichiro, agree to pay more than USD 2 million (EUR 1.8 million) for violations of the Clean Air Act at its Captain’s Bay seafood processing plant in Dutch Harbor, Alaska.
As part of the consent decree between Westward, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Justice, Westward will pay USD 1.1 million (EUR 1 million) for air pollution reduction projects, a USD 1.3 million (EUR 1.2 million) civil penalty – USD 228,000 (EUR 208,248) of which goes to the state of Alaska – and more than USD 800,000 (EUR 730,560) for “other injunctive relief.”
Westward is also required to use new electronic systems for monitoring, record-keeping and reporting, properly train personnel for compliance, and “implement a more robust preventative maintenance and operations plan,” EPA’s Seattle office said in a statement.
“This settlement requires significant third-party, independent oversight of Westward Seafoods’ operations to monitor and verify the use of required pollution controls,” said Edward Kowalski, director of the Office of Compliance and Enforcement in EPA’s Seattle office.
Westward told the EPA and the state of Alaska that it recently discovered that three employees turned off air pollution controls from 2009 to 2011 and falsified records to hide their actions.
“Prior to this discovery, the company had submitted the falsified records to EPA and the state of Alaska, which resulted in criminal prosecutions against the three individuals in federal court in 2014. Today’s settlement resolves the company’s civil liability for all of the Clean Air Act violations,” EPA’s Seattle office said.
“Air permits are put into place to protect air quality and public health. Turning off pollution controls and falsifying records are serious violations,” said Denise Koch, director of the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation Division of Air Quality. “We’re satisfied that this agreement’s mitigation projects and enhanced system to verify compliance will reduce air pollution on Unalaska Island.”
Westward is required to conduct two mitigation projects to offset its excess emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOX) pollution.
“EPA estimates that the company’s failure to operate pollution controls for two years resulted in nearly 105 excess tons of harmful NOX emissions,” EPA Seattle said. “NOX is composed of highly reactive gasses which form quickly from fuel-burning emissions from cars, trucks and buses, and power plants. Breathing air with high levels of NOX can cause or aggravate respiratory diseases, particularly asthma.”
Westward and its sister company, Alyeska Seafoods, which operates a seafood processing plant near Westward’s Captain’s Bay facility, must switch to energy efficient lighting “to reduce the need for generated electricity and reduce NOx emissions,” EPA Seattle said.
The Alyeska facility will also install a five-megawatt transformer and make other associated changes to provide an electrical connection to the city of Unalaska’s power plant, which generates lower NOX emissions than the Alyeska facility’s generators.
Westward and Alyeska are required to operate the pollution mitigation projects for three years, which is expected to result in 140 tons fewer NOX emissions.
The new consent decree stems from a 2010 consent decree between EPA, the Department of Justice and Westward. At the time, Westward paid a USD 570,000 (EUR 521,000) penalty to resolve previous violations of the Clean Air Act and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act at the Captain’s Bay Facility.
“Westward’s recent violations also violated the 2010 consent decree,” EPA Seattle said.