The Washington State Department of Ecology has announced that Weyerhaeuser Timber Co. will pay $600,000 in fines to fund environmental cleanup, remediation of pollution, and upgrade at its Longview timber mill in Longview, WA.
Under the terms of the proposed settlement signed on Friday, Weyerhaeuser will:
- Aerate ponds at its Longview site;
- Reroute its storm water pipe;
- Install monitoring devices and filters;
- Find better onsite procedures for effective bark debris and wood management; and
- Pay $5,000 in penalties and fines for any future violations occurring between 2023 and 2025
The proposal is subject to approval by the U.S. Department of Justice and must be signed by the federal judge before it unconditionally takes effect.
This settlement ends a legal battle between the Seattle-based timber giant, operating since the 1930s, and Columbia Riverkeeper (CRK), a local non-profit organization dedicated to protecting the Columbia River watershed.
CRK first sued Weyerhaeuser Timber Firm on March 7 for allegedly discharging harmful levels of wastewater into the Columbia River without proper treatment. The wastes include sawdust, sludge, elm, bark dust, and other wood products that contain potential toxins like arsenic and chromium. CRK alleges that these wastes can hurt the Columbia River’s aqua life by reducing oxygen levels and enhancing the growth of harmful bacteria.
According to Ecology officials, Weyerhaeuser’s Longview mill has an extensive history of discharging harmful run-offs into local waterways without proper treatment. Between 2019 and 2020, Weyerhaeuser’s Longview mill and two of its immediate neighbors, Nipon Dynawave and North Pacific Paper Corporation, were cited for dozens of violations of the Clean Water Act.
Nippon and North Pacific were once part of the larger Weyerhaeuser Timber Firm, which spanned 700 acres before their fallouts in 2016. The trio still shares infrastructure.
In a statement released by the Department of Ecology, Water Resources Director Laura Watson said: “This settlement will ensure that Weyerhaeuser protects human health and the environment through better stormwater management.” Further, Simone Anter, the CRK’s staff attorney, asserted that an agreement of that magnitude clearly shows that no corporation should flout the Clean Water Act, no matter how big it is. He revealed that CRK will continue the fight, keeping an eye on more complex cases in the future.