TOLEDO — In a message emailed to community leaders on Wednesday, Georgia-Pacific Public Affairs Manager C.J. Drake announced that a $63,600 penalty had been assessed by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality for Georgia-Pacific’s non-compliance with its federal Title V air operating permit.
“We wanted you to learn it from us first,” Drake wrote. Describing the situation as “a rare, unintentional deviation from our commitment to comply with government regulations,” Drake apologized to neighbors and the public at large “for any deviation from that commitment and concern it may cause.”
Through a public information request, the News-Times obtained a copy of the Sept. 21 letter, “Notice of Civil Penalty Assessment and Order,” sent to Georgia-Pacific by Kieran O’Donnell, manager in DEQ’s Office of Compliance and Enforcement. That letter addresses violations on three apparently unrelated events in March, May and September of 2019.
“The inspectors observed visible emissions from several places on your modified kraft pulp digester of the type that should have been identified during monthly visual inspections and corrected by fixing the leaks,” the letter stated. “The inspectors also confirmed that you had not been performing complete inspections since April 2019.”
The notice explained that Georgia-Pacific violated “two separate National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants”. The mill also violated two limits set by the state for particulate matter and one limit for total reduced sulfur.
“Particulate matter is known to affect the functioning of the heart and lungs, impacts visibility, and where it is deposited, it can change the acidity or nutrient balance of water bodies and soil. Total reduced sulfur emissions can cause irritation to the eyes, nose or throat, and can generate foul odors, which may impact neighboring communities,” O’Donnell wrote.
O’Donnell’s letter listed requirements and actions Georgia-Pacific must take and noted the mill’s efforts to “minimize the effects of the emission limits violations … performing additional maintenance during an annual shutdown, installing new doors and seals, and installing a temperature probe,” as well as other steps the mill has taken to remain compliant.
“DEQ appreciates your efforts to promptly fix the leaks identified during the September 2019 inspection,” the letter stated. “DEQ considered these efforts when determining the amount of civil penalty.”
DEQ may allow the mill to resolve part of the penalty by sponsoring an environmental improvement project, the letter stated.
Georgia-Pacific has 20 days from receipt of the letter to request a hearing to appeal the matter. There was no appeal filed as of press time Thursday.
Calling them “alleged instances of non-compliance,” Drake explained in his email. “While any unpermitted emission from the mill is a serious matter, the ones described above were unintentional and largely due to equipment malfunctions. We immediately notified DEQ and took corrective actions as soon as possible.
“Again, we apologize for any concern raised by this matter and thank you, in advance, for your understanding and patience,” Drake wrote in his email.
Drake indicated in an email to the News-Times that Georgia-Pacific was evaluating its options regarding an appeal.