Feds target salmon plants for pollution

Posted: Monday, May 21, 2001

Here is a list of Alaska salmon operators cited by the Environmental Protection Agency:

Alaska General Seafoods, Ketchikan: $137,500.

Trident Seafoods, Ketchikan: $137,500.

Wards Cove Packing, two plants in Ketchikan: $214,500.

Norquest Seafoods, Ketchikan: $55,000.

Icicle Seafood, Seward: $137,500.

ANCHORAGE - Federal regulators are cracking down on Alaska canneries, including several in Ketchikan, by imposing a slew of hefty fines.

The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed fining five cannery operators a total of $682,000 for alleged pollution violations in recent summers.

The companies are negotiating settlements, but as Alaska heads into another summer of large salmon harvests, the cannery operators are worried. They fear more fines are coming, or that other measures could force them to shut down or pay the expense of barging fish waste to remote dump sites.

Just last month Alaska General Seafoods was ordered by the EPA to stop fouling Ketchikan waters with seafood waste.

Alaska General operates a salmon cannery in Ketchikan from June to August, and produces significant waste during those months, said Gordon Lindquist, general manager of the Kenmore, Wash.,-based company.

"We have been working closely with EPA to try and find ways to resolve this issue," Lindquist said last month. He said he was confident an agreement could be reached.

Most salmon canneries are allowed to grind up fish waste and pipe it back into the water, where tides can take it away. A very few have plants to make fish meal out of the waste.

One of EPA's biggest concerns is that piles of fish waste have accumulated and "erupted" in some cases, potentially harming invertebrates, sapping the water of oxygen and producing offensive odors.

Four companies have been hit with proposed fines in the Ketchikan area. During the summer and fall of 1999, fish waste polluted public beaches in Tongass Narrows and sent odors described as "a cross between sewage and rotten fish" into the town of Ketchikan, the EPA said.

Bub Loiselle, EPA's water quality compliance manager in Seattle, has been critical of the industry.

"What is allowed and what isn't are clearly stated in the permits under which each company operates, so these violations really are inexcusable," he has said in written statements.

Loiselle said in an interview with the Anchorage Daily News that salmon processors have been identified by the EPA as a priority "because of the nature and extent of the waste discharges, the location and sensitivity of the receiving waters, and the volumes of waste material discharged."

While much of EPA's enforcement actions have come in Southeast, Loiselle said efforts could be spread to other parts of the state this summer if resources to expand investigations are available.

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