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Weyerhaeuser fined for fecal discharge release

A state Department of Ecology fine report released last week shows the agency fined Weyerhaeuser Company $14,000 last October for a fecal coliform discharge that exceeded its permit allowance.

The Department of Ecology issued 20 notices of violation to several companies in fourth quarter 2001, totaling about $264,000, according to the report. In all, the agency collected about $1.5 million in fines in 2001.

Weyerhaeuser received its notice of violation on Oct. 18, when the Cosmopolis chemical pulp mill, located in Grays Harbor County, exceeded its permitted discharge limit for fecal coliform-laden waste that was dumped into the Chehalis River, which runs into Grays Harbor.

The discharges occurred on June 15, 18 and 19 and on Aug. 9, 2001.

The August discharge was eight times the permitted amount, according to an Ecology statement released in October. State Department of Health officials closed a portion of Grays Harbor to commercial shellfishing for seven days after the discharge.

The Department of Ecology issues permits allowing industrial companies to dump a certain amount of pollution, though the Cosmopolis plant has exceeded its permit several times, Ecology spokeswoman Sandy Howard said.

But Weyerhaeuser spokeswoman Marianne Snyder said Ecology and Weyerhaeuser environmentalists and scientists disagree over what constitutes pollution.

She said Weyerhaeuser environmentalists have been meeting with Department of Ecology officials over the past year-and-a-half to look at how Ecology tests for pollution and to arrive at a “mutual understanding.”

Scientists at the mill constantly monitor the levels of fecal coliform in the wastewater treatment system, she said.

A discharge like what occurred at the Cosmopolis plant generally is caused when favorable temperatures and pH levels in treatment tanks allow the bacteria to thrive.

Snyder said that whenever waste in excess of the permit amount is discharged, it dissipates in the Chehalis River and never reaches Grays Harbor, which has been designated an environmentally sensitive area.

“Human pathogens have never been found,” she said.

Still, she admitted a violation is a violation and said Weyerhaeuser wants to be a good neighbor.

“It doesn’t help us (to be) viewed as a polluting neighbor. It’s a community we want to have good standing in,” she said. “Weyerhaeuser one, doesn’t want to pollute air or water and two, doesn’t want to continually be fined.”

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