By Stefanie Donahue
The Washington State Department of Ecology (DOE) imposed a $22,000 fine against organic food manufacturer Nature’s Path following a reported series of water quality permit violations at its facility in Blaine.
The DOE issued the fine and an order to comply with permit requirements after the company racked up 39 permit violations between November 2014 and October 2016. The DOE delivered a formal warning in December 2015 and on November 15 fined Nature’s Path for eight violations of discharging acidic wastewater into Blaine’s water treatment system.
“Commitment to the environment and sustainability is a priority at Nature’s Path,” said Nature’s Path vice president of operations Peter Dierx in a written statement. “Our Blaine plant is a designated zero waste facility and up until we began using the city of Blaine’s treatment plant, we hauled our wastewater to generate clean, renewable biogas.”
Headquartered in Richmond, Nature’s Path manufactures its products in two locations in the US, including its facility in Blaine at 2220 Natures Path Way. The company treats its wastewater through Blaine’s Lighthouse Point Water Reclamation Facility, which processes more than 500,000 gallons of domestic sewage on a daily basis.
In a statement released November 22, Nature’s Path announced that it plans to appeal the fine to the state’s pollution control hearing board, claiming the pH monitoring probe Nature’s Path used to monitor wastewater was providing inaccurate data.
“We believe the past numbers we reported to the city are inaccurate and that our past pH levels were in fact aligned with the city’s guidelines,” Dierx said.
Permits issued to authorize wastewater discharge require routine testing and official review, said DOE spokesperson Krista Kenner. Nature’s Path was required to sample wastewater and report back to the DOE on a monthly basis, she said.
Monitoring reports dating back to 2014 reveal that wastewater discharged by Nature’s Path at times failed to meet proper dissolved oxygen levels, flow requirements, filtration standards and, most often, pH levels. Improper pH levels can potentially damage sewer lines, disrupt sewage operations and create hazards for on-site staff.
Blaine assistant public works director Bill Bullock said the violations didn’t appear to cause any damage to Blaine’s water treatment plant, pointing out that wastewater produced by Nature’s Path dilutes on its 1.5-mile trek through sewer pipes before it reaches the facility. Despite no signs of damage, he said the city still plans to use its robotic sewer camera to get a closer look.
“We are going to do our due diligence,” he said.