In the interest of transparency, GP announced information to be passed on to the public of a development regarding the Toledo mill’s relationship with the local environment. Because it’s a matter of public record, you may eventually read about this development in the news media. However, we wanted you to learn of it from us first. The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has penalized the mill for two unexpected releases from our wastewater treatment system and one lab testing issue. The releases occurred in September and October 2018 and we voluntarily reported them to DEQ.
Below is a summary of the situation and the corrective actions we took as reported to DEQ:
On Sept. 14, 2018, the mill discharged approximately 1,260 gallons of treated wastewater into the Yaquina River through an on-site storm drain. The cause of the spill was a vacuum breaker failure on the mill’s wastewater effluent line near Gate 3 off Butler Bridge Road.
On Oct. 15, 2018, the mill discharged an unknown amount of treated wastewater into Little Beaver Creek from a leak along the underground effluent line that parallels U.S. 20.
In both the September and October discharges, the wastewater had been treated and was in our wastewater effluent line that discharges into the ocean. We took immediate steps to stop the leaks as soon as they were detected. Long-term corrective actions include replacing rusted bolts where the vacuum breakers are attached to the effluent line. Other long-term corrective actions are periodic replacement of vacuum breakers and improved inspection programs.
In September 2018, the mill experienced an upset condition that led to an offsite release of foam from the treatment ponds. This condition caused a higher than normal biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) in the treated effluent. While the mill conducted required BOD testing more frequently after the upset condition, the results were invalid because they did not meet DEQ quality assurance standards for this specific event. We corrected this situation by changing our BOD testing procedures.
DEQ has informed us that the monetary penalty for these events is $27,106. DEQ also ordered us to conduct a third-party audit of our BOD testing procedures. Under DEQ rules, we may offset a portion of the monetary penalty by agreeing to pay for a supplemental environmental project (SEP), which can represent up to 80 percent of the total penalty amount, with the 20 percent balance being paid directly to DEQ. A SEP must improve Oregon’s environment in some way and be approved by DEQ.
GP announced they are actively exploring the option of implementing a SEP that will meaningfully improve the local environment. Additional information will be shared after we review all our options and reach a decision. While any unpermitted release from the mill is a serious matter, the ones described above were unintentional.
GP voluntarily reported the conditions to DEQ and also took corrective actions as soon as possible. We work hard to be a good steward of the environment and a good neighbor in our community and we deeply regret any deviation from those commitments.
C. J. Drake Public Affairs Manager Georgia-Pacific Toledo, Oregon