Westward Seafoods settles over Clean Air Act violations

Settlement includes a $1.3 million civil penalty; $1.1 million in air pollution reduction measures

Federal authorities have settled with Westward Seafoods over alleged Clean Air Act violations at the processor’s Captain’s Bay seafood plant in Dutch Harbor.

The settlement requires that Westward employ new electronic systems for monitoring, recordkeeping and reporting, train its employees for compliance and implement a more robust preventative maintenance and operations plan.

The consent decreed lodged in the U.S. District Court in Alaska on April 20 stemmed from an incident in which three Westward seafood employees turned off air pollution controls from 2009 to 2011 and falsified records to hide that they did.

Westward Seafoods had reported the incident to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the state of Alaska after discovering what had happened.

Prior to the discovery, Westward had submitted falsified records to EPA and the state, which resulted in criminal prosecutions against the three individuals in federal court in 2014.

The settlement reached on April 20 resolves the company’s civil liability for all of the Clean Air Act violations, the EPA said.

The settlement requires significant third party independent oversight of Westward Seafoods’ operations to monitor and verify use of required pollution controls, said Edward Kowalski, director of the Office of Compliance and Enforcement at the EPA in Seattle.

Denise Koch, director of the Division of Air Quality within the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, said the state is satisfied that the agreement’s mitigation projects and enhanced system to verify compliance will reduce air pollution on Unalaska Island.

The settlement also calls for Westward Seafoods to spend $1.1 million on air pollution reduction projects, more than $800,000 on other injunctive relief, and pay a $1.3 million civil penalty. The state of Alaska, a co-plaintiff in the case, will receive $228,000 of the civil penalty.

Westward Seafoods will conduct two mitigation projects to offset its excess emissions of nitrogen oxides. The EPA estimates that the company’s failure to operate pollution controls for two years resulted in nearly 105 excess tons of nitrogen oxide emissions.

The EPA noted that Westward’s sister company, Alyeska Seafoods, operates a seafood processing facility two miles from the Captain’s bay plant. Westward will replace existing lighting at both facilities with energy efficient lighting to reduce the need for generated electricity and reduce nitrogen oxide emissions. The Alyeska facility will also install a five-megawatt transformer and make other changes to provide an electrical connection to the city of Unalaska’s power plant, which generates lower nitrogen oxide emissions than the Alyeska facility’s generators.

Once those changes are made, the settlement prohibits use of the two largest and higher polluting generators at the Alyeska facility except when city power is unavailable or during other emergencies.

The EPA said Westward and Alyeska are required to operate the pollution mitigation projects for three years, which is expected to result in 140 tons of fewer nitrogen oxide emissions.

The projects will also reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide and particulate matter. The mitigation is likely to continue beyond three years, resulting in almost 48 tons a year of additional nitrogen oxide emission reductions.

The reduced emission will help protect air quality in communities surrounding the facilities, including the Qawalangin Tribe of Unalaska.