Stimson Lumber fined $33,000 for air quality violations
Stimson Lumber Company is facing more than $30,000 in penalties for violating environmental regulations at its wood products facility in Gaston, according to a notice sent to the company by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality in March.
The violations took place in 2017 and 2018 and include multiple instances of failing to follow several pollutant emission monitoring protocols, inaccurate reporting of environmental compliance and exceeding a permitted hazardous air pollutant limit.
"DEQ issued this penalty because exceeding a (hazardous air pollutant) limit and failure to conduct monitoring are serious violations," read the notice to Stimson in part. "Many (hazardous air pollutants) are known or suspected carcinogens and can cause other serious health effects."
Dan McFall, chief operating officer for Stimson, says the violations occurred because an employee, who was tasked with monitoring and reporting emissions at the facility, and an outside contractor did not follow the correct protocols.
"We made corrections immediately — because this is a couple of years old — to the personnel and the firms we were using to comply. We feel we're under control now," McFall said.
He did not comment on whether the employee at issue was removed from the position.
DEQ fined Stimson for failing to conduct visual monitoring surveys of pollutant emissions from multiple areas of the facility "numerous times" during 2017 and 2018.
The company also didn't ensure its baghouses, which are used to ensure particulate matter emissions are being adequately controlled, were functioning properly by monitoring their pressure, according to DEQ.
The agency also said Stimson submitted inaccurate semi-annual reports and compliance certifications that didn't correctly identify and account for permit violations.
Stimson's largest fine, $15,000 of the $33,000 total, was for violating the hazardous air pollution emission limit at the facility's hardboard manufacturing line.
DEQ limits the facility's total emissions of hydrocarbons — a carcinogen commonly found in petroleum fuels — at 20 parts per million from scrubbers that control air emissions.
According to DEQ, total hydrocarbon emissions at the facility reached an average of almost four times higher than the allowed levels during one three-hour block on Oct. 9, 2018. During two other similar periods on Oct. 31, emissions exceeded the limit by about 10 parts per million.
McFall disputed that the facility's emissions exceeded the hazardous air pollutant limit, however. He said the facility's monitoring protocol didn't measure emissions directly, and the violations appeared because the employee and contractor at issue used a flawed formula to calculate emissions.
"Because the formula was flawed, I believe, you can't prove or disprove whether or not" the facility exceeded the emissions limit, McFall said.
Stimson has requested to enter an appeal process with DEQ for some of the fines.
"We aren't looking to have the fines significantly reduced or anything, we're willing to pay what we have to pay and move on," McFall said. "At that time, we did lose sight of some things in the operation that we should be responsible for."
Stimson officials discussed whether or not to appeal all of the fines due to the circumstances of the violations, McFall said, but they decided it wasn't worth the resources.
Dylan Darling, a spokesman for DEQ, said the appeal process is partly an opportunity for the company to present information about what led to the violations.
Stimson has been fined multiple times for air quality permit violations at the Gaston facility in the last decade. In 2009, DEQ issued $14,600 in fines to Stimson for not meeting emissions standards and mismanaging a pollution control scrubber. Then, in 2014, DEQ issued $3,600 in fines after Stimson failed to collect the minimum monitoring data for hazardous air pollutant standards.
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