The Prince William Sound Aquaculture Corporation (PWSAC) has been sentenced in federal district court to fines totaling $1 million and five years probation as a result of a 2018 incident involving illegal burning of hazardous wastes, one in which an employee was seriously injured.
The sentence handed down in U.S. District Court in Anchorage on Feb. 16 included requirements that PWSAC must follow — including adhering to an environmental compliance plan, preparing an environmental compliance manual, and undergoing site visits by a third-party auditor.
Chief U.S. District Court Judge Sharon L. Gleason said, in handing down the sentence, that it was “regrettable that it took such a serious injury to bring about this charge.”
Court records show that on June 27, 2018, the maintenance manager at the Cannery Creek Hatchery instructed an employee to burn several 50-gallon drums containing hazardous waste, causing serious injury to the employee. Cannery Creek and other hatcheries had been accumulating hazardous waste for many years without an appropriate method of storage or disposal of these wastes.
PWSAC did not respond to a request for comment.
U.S. Attorney for the District of Alaska S. Lane Tucker said the crime resulted in lifelong consequences for the victim, as well as harmful impact on the environment.
PWSAC ignored environmental regulations for disposing of hazardous waste, resulting in an explosion on their property and injuries to their employee, said Scot Adair, with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) criminal enforcement program in Alaska.
“EPA and its law enforcement partners are committed to holding responsible parties accountable for actions that put people’s lives and the environment in danger,” he said.
Alaska Region Special Agent in Charge Tim Walther of the U.S. Forest Service also commented, saying the health of Alaska’s national forests depends on everyone working together to do what’s right for the environment — to protect forest recourses.
The case was investigated by the EPA Criminal Investigation Division, U.S. Forest Service and the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation.
PWSAC is a private nonprofit hatchery association founded in 1974 by a commercial fishermen’s organization to boost Alaska’s wild salmon resources. PWSAC produces hatchery-born, ocean-raised wild salmon for the commercial, sport, personal-use and subsistence fisheries in the Prince William Sound and Copper River regions. PWSAC operates five of the state’s 25 private nonprofit salmon hatcheries. A plea agreement regarding illegal disposal of hazardous wastes filed on Nov. 9, 2022, focused mainly on the Cannery Creek Hatchery, located about 40 miles east of Whittier.