Silver Bay Seafoods will pay fine for water quality violations

Silver Bay Seafoods has agreed to pay a $467,469 penalty determined by state environmental officials for water quality violations at its Naknek River processing facility in Bristol Bay.

The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation said that Silver Bay Seafoods has also agreed to take corrective actions regarding significant violations of their Alaska Pollutant Discharge Eliminations System permit.

DEC found numerous violations during an on-site inspection of the Naknek facility in 2021, including that the company repeatedly discharged significantly more fish waste into the Naknek River than permitted, despite DEC’s decision to deny a request from the company to exceed discharge limits.

“Not only did Silver Bay Seafoods’ knowing and recalcitrant disregard for permit terms put the local environment at risk, but it also gave them a material competitive advantage over the other seafood processors in the area who undertook the costs of compliance,” said Randy Bates, director of DEC’s Division of Water.

Silver Bay Seafood’s processing facility lives about five miles upstream of the mouth of the Naknek Rier, next to several other processing facilities. The area has a significant tidal flow that washes in and out of the river, as well as the current of the river itself, which disperses the fish waste discharged by the processing facilities.  Exceeding the amount of fish waste that the tidal system can handle could cause concentrations of standing fish waste to accumulate and stagnate, leading to upstream and downstream consequences for the local environment.

Silver Bay Seafoods’ APDES permit allowed for the discharge of up to 10 million pounds of fish waste a year. DEC said they exceeded the limit without authorization by 2.9 million pounds in 2017 and by 5.1 million pounds in 2020.

Their APDES permit also requires catch transfer water, wastewater sent from the vessel offloading fish to a processing plant, to be discharged through the plant’s outfall to avoid water quality impacts. The onsite inspection in 2021 found Silver Bay allowing a vessel to discharge catch transfer water at the dock, causing a water quality violation of blood and foam on the water surface, in violation of their permit and DEC’s direction not to discharge at the dock. DEC inspectors also found grind size limit exceedances, best management practice plan violations, and failure to self-report non-compliance with the permit conditions.