Pacific Seafood fined USD 222,000 for water-quality violations at Washington plant

Pacific Seafoods' headquarters in Oregon
Pacific Seafoods was fined for water quality violations at its Westport, Washington-based processing plant for the third time | Photo by Chris Chase/SeafoodSource
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The U.S. state of Washington has fined Pacific Seafood USD 222,000 (EUR 207,000) for water-quality violations found at one of the company’s facilities.

The Washington Department of Ecology said the fine is for repeatedly sending polluted wastewater into Half Moon Bay in Westport, Washington. Pacific Seafood operates a seafood-processing facility in Westport, Washington that mainly processes crab and shrimp, and the department said the facility violated its water-quality permit 58 times over the last two years.

The same facility was fined USD 123,000 (EUR 114,000) in April 2022 by the department for similar water-quality violations. It has also been targeted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for Clean Water Act violations, after an unannounced inspection in 2017 found more than 2,000 violations. Pacific agreed to pay USD 190,000 (EUR 177,000) in a settlement with the agency in 2020.

“It’s unacceptable that this facility is continuing to pollute Half Moon Bay after repeated citations and technical assistance,” Washington Department of Ecology Water Quality Program Manager Vince McGowan said. “The majority of similar companies in the industry are able to meet permit requirements. The bottom line is that we need this facility to comply with their permit and stop polluting Half Moon Bay. This includes making any needed upgrades to their wastewater treatment system to fix the problem.”  

According to the department, Pacific said it explored possible improvements to the facility “but has not yet made those investments.”

Ten of the violations were due to a lack of water-quality monitoring on wastewater discharge, while the other 48 were for discharging wastewater with “too much organic matter, solids, acidity, oil and grease, and fecal coliform bacteria.”

The department said it conducted technical assistance inspections in an attempt to help the facility return to compliance, but those attempts apparently failed.

Pacific Seafood Communications Director Lacy Ogan told SeafoodSource the company prides itself on its commitment to the environment, and has invested millions of dollars into its Westportplant  and has collaborated directly with the Washington Department of Ecology on its wastewater treatment.

“Pacific has spent thousands of additional dollars and invested in upgrades, all in accordance with the comprehensive engineering report and the schedule for improvements that [the Department of Ecology] reviewed,” Ogan said. 

Ogan said the department sensationalized portions of the information in its public announcement.

“For example, their press release alleges we are ‘are polluting Half Moon Bay with water that is too acidic,’ giving the impression that pH violations are ongoing and regular, when the truth is, there was only a single pH violation, which resulted from a broken pH meter,” Ogan said. “The regulations we must comply with are incredibly stringent, technical, and data intensive. We go above and beyond to protect our environment, but sometimes we might make a mistake. Unfortunately, it’s the mistakes that get headlines, not all of the times we’ve done the right thing.”

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