Trident Seafoods will pay $297,000 in a settlement with the federal government for Clean Water Act violations at plants in Sand Point and Wrangell.
In both locations, the fines are the result of Trident discharging more fish waste than they were legally allowed to.
Environmental Protection Agency spokesman Bill Dunbar says in Sand Point, Trident will remove nearly 3.5 acres of waste from the seafloor near their plant.
“These are enormous numbers of fish that are being processed in one place. All of that fish water gets deposited in enormous volumes in essentially still water,” Dunbar said. “The currents don’t take that fish waste away. That waste piles up on the seafloor.”
Those piles create a gelatinous goo, Dunbar says, that carpets the seafloor, killing anything underneath it. And it has been around for awhile.
Trident attorney Joe Plesha says the pile is leftover from cod processing from 1987 to 1994. He says he told the EPA about the fish waste around the time of a 2011 settlement.
“I actually left it up to them. I said if you want us to remediate this, we of course will,” Plesha said. “But for reasons I’m not really certain of they didn’t bring it up again. And I candidly didn’t remind them so it wasn’t part of that 2011 consent decree.”
Trident paid a $2.5 million fine to settle the 2011 case and committed to spending up to $40 million to prevent future Clean Water Act violations.
Dunbar agrees these violations are very similar and could have been lumped in with the 2011 settlement.
“For reasons I can’t explain to you, they weren’t,” Dunbar said.
Plesha is confident that this type of violation will not happen again because Trident built a meal plant in Sand Point and all waste is screened. The company has also agreed to limit the amount of fish waste discharged from the Wrangell plant.
Meanwhile, Trident's Akutan plant had a fire late last month -- that consumed 25 acres of tundra. The company didn’t report the fire to the community -- but Plesha stresses that was a mistake.
"The plant manager was busy making sure that people were notified to get out of the bunkhouses," Plesha said. "He should have, but he didn't contact the [Village Public Safety Officer] in Akutan."
Plesha says the plant manager has since apologized.
Trident is still investigating the incident. But Plesha says they believe a spark from a burn pill caused the fire. The plant was not damaged and no one was injured.