Washington DOE settles case with Nature’s Path

By Stefanie Donahue

Local organic food manufacturer Nature’s Path will invest approximately $30,000 to help the city of Blaine restore and purchase land along Cain Creek as part of a settlement agreement reached with the Washington State Department of Ecology (DOE) in late October.

The agreement stems from 39 water quality permit violations recorded between November 2014 and October 2016 at the company’s facility in Blaine. The DOE issued a formal warning in December 2015 and in November 2016 proceeded with an order to comply and a $22,000 fine for eight violations of discharging acidic wastewater into Blaine’s water treatment system.

Nature’s Path is headquartered in Richmond, British Columbia and manufactures its products in two locations in the US, including its facility in Blaine at 2220 Natures Path Way. The company’s wastewater is treated in Blaine’s Lighthouse Point Water Reclamation Facility. Per state standards, the company is limited in the amount of pollutants it can discharge into the city’s sewer system.

Cain Creek. Photo courtesy of the city of Blaine

After receiving the order DOE, representatives from Nature’s Path stated the pH monitoring probe used to sample the wastewater was providing inaccurate data and installed improvements to its pre-treatment system for wastewater discharge. Last December, they appealed the fine to the state’s pollution control hearing board and by October 27, DOE and Nature’s Path had signed a settlement agreement.

“We’re pleased to see this excellent progress at the Nature’s Path facility and these valuable enhancements for the city,” said director of the DOE northwest regional office Tom Buroker in a statement. “We value this partnership, because the assistance to the city goes above what our penalty assessed and, more importantly, beyond what’s required to comply with the permit.”

In a statement, Nature’s Path vice president of operations, Peter Dierx, said, “Nature’s Path is very pleased that the Department of Ecology dismissed our case and accepted our 2016 appeal that enables us to make significant environmental improvements to Blaine […] We’re excited to see the positive changes we are helping make in Blaine.”

Per the agreement, Nature’s Path has committed to helping the city of Blaine build a park along Cain Creek, which is located adjacent to the Salishan neighborhood and runs into Drayton Harbor. It will also help enhance the creek’s water quality to restore shellfish harvest and recreation in the area. In a memorandum signed with the city in September 2017, Nature’s Path agreed to commit:

— $20,000 toward the purchase of two undeveloped land parcels along Cain Creek to create a new park.

— $5,000 to enhance the creek’s water quality by funding a city-led stormwater treatment project at the creek’s outfall into Drayton Harbor.

— $3,000 to restore two undeveloped land parcels acquired by the city. In the spring of 2018, 2019 and possibly 2020, the company intends to conduct watershed clean-up events to remove weeds and plant native species, under city supervision.

— $1,000 to fund and install interpretive signage along Mitchell Street.

— $800 to supply three years’ worth of pet waste bags and ongoing waste pick-up.

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