Seattle-based American Seafoods Company LLC and five of its processing vessels must pay $999,000 in total penalties for violating the federal Clean Water Act with wastewater discharges off the Oregon and Washington coast, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The agency says it cited the companies “for hundreds of violations including discharging waste in the protected Heceta/Stonewall Banks complex along the Oregon coast, failure to monitor its discharges and missing or inaccurate information in required annual reports.”
Discharges of seafood processing wastewater is prohibited in some areas and within the 100-meter (328 feet) depth contour off Washington and Oregon. The wastewater discharge “exacerbates already existing low-oxygen conditions which negatively impact most fishes, crabs and other marine life,” according to the EPA.
In a statement issued Sept. 28, the agency said the penalties are part of an administrative order on consent that was effective Aug. 17. The order requires American Seafood and the owners of the vessels – American Dynasty, American Triumph, Northern Eagle, Northern Jaeger and Ocean Rover – “to conduct corporate-wide, systemic improvements to ensure compliance with its permits,” according to the agency.
EPA officials say they have evaluated Clean Water Act compliance by the Northwest seafood processing industry, “and found that American Seafoods Company and the owners of its vessels stood apart from the other Oregon and Washington offshore fish processors in the number and severity of violations.”
“In amassing hundreds of violations from illegal discharges to sloppy and even non-existent record-keeping American Seafoods Company demonstrated a clear disregard for the fragile and valuable resources that sustain its business,” Ed Kowalski, director of EPA’s Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Division in Seattle, said in a prepared statement.
“When issuing a permit, EPA confers to the permit holder the responsibility to protect our nation’s resources. We expect the company-wide, systematic overhaul of its operations will re-focus American Seafoods Company on the true value of its permit, the importance of tracking compliance with the permit, and the resources that permit entrusts it with protecting.”
In a statement to the Salem, Ore., Statesman Journal, American Seafoods told the newspaper that the penalties are related to reporting, filing and interpretation of data in a new federal permit covering Oregon and Washington.
"American Seafoods continues to have the highest priority focus on reporting and compliance and looks forward to putting this matter behind us," the company said.