Mill’s fine to reduce pollution

EVERETT — Tissue giant Kimberly-Clark Corp. has agreed to spend $125,000 on projects in Everett to reduce wood smoke and pollution from diesel- burning vehicles as part of a penalty for allowing a fire to smolder for half a year.

The pile of shredded wood waste near the Riverside neighborhood burned six months in 2007, from July to December.

The state took action after receiving complaints from residents about smoke and odor from the burning pile.

The settlement money will be used to help Everett residents buy cleaner-burning wood stoves and to retrofit city-owned diesel trucks with emissions-reducing equipment. The company also agreed to pay the state environmental agency $40,000.

It’s the second largest air quality settlement with a pulp mill in state history. It was reduced from an initial fine of $235,000.

“This is a good solution,” said Larry Altose, a spokesman for the Department of Ecology. “It provides long-term benefits and it goes after the types of emissions that came off the pile fire.”

Altose said a similar deal was struck in the mid-’90s after Fort James pulp mill in Camas agreed to buy an air pollution warning system for the community after a series of air quality violations. That $196,400 is the most a mill in Washington has been fined by the state for violating air quality rules.

The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency plans to use $20,000 to expand its wood-stove replacement program to Everett and $105,000 to install pollution-reduction equipment on city-owned diesel vehicles.

A spokeswoman with the Clean Air Agency said it is too early to say how much of a rebate Everett residents might qualify for. In Marysville, people can get up to $750 from the state for swapping out old wood stoves for cleaner gas, propane and electric inserts and furnaces.

The seven-page settlement agreement was made public Wednesday.

The company does not admit fault for air quality violations, but agreed not to appeal the settlement or challenge the merits of accusations against it.

Mill manager Chris Isenberg called the situation “unusual” and said in a press release that the company has new management in place to prevent a future flare up.

Kimberly-Clark burns wood scraps to generate steam used to make electricity. It uses the electricity to make paper products and sells some of the power to Snohomish County PUD.

The mill is located on the Everett waterfront at Port Gardner, but the wood chips are stored across town along the Snoho­mish River just east of E. Grand Avenue.

The boiler that burns the chips at the waterfront mill broke down in June, but the flow of wood chips to the riverfront site did not slow, creating an unusually large pile.

Huge wood chip piles can ignite spontaneously from the heat created by their decomposition.

Earth movers are used to turn over piles to prevent wood waste from overheating and catching fire. Piles also are sometimes dowsed with water.

However, water was not available at the Everett site last summer when the pile became too large for Kimberly-Clark to manage.

The nearest fire hydrant to the company’s stockpile was not working when the pile caught fire, according to the settlement agreement.

Kimberly-Clark offered to pay the settlement within 30 days. It also said it would not use the payments to receive tax credits.

The company was fined $16,000 last year by the state for a mishap at its waterfront mill that violated air-quality laws and covered much of the city with a potent rotten-egg smell for two days in April.

Kimberly-Clark has about 850 employees in Everett and produces about a million rolls of toilet paper and other paper products a day.

Reporter David Chircop: 425-339-3429 or dchircop@heraldnet.com.

Recent Kimberly-Clark air quality fines

Recent Kimberly-Clark air quality violations and penalties:

2008: $164,000 for violating air quality rules after a pile of wood chips was allowed to burn for six months.

2007: $16,000 for excessive hydrogen sulfide, ammonia and sulfur-dioxide gas emissions that produced strong odors.

2005: $3,000 for exceeding allowable levels of sulfur-dioxide emissions.

2004: $3,000 for exceeding allowable levels of sulfur-dioxide emissions.

2003: $1,000 for exceeding allowable levels of sulfur-dioxide emissions.

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