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Saturday, September 19, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Clearwater Paper settles pollution case for $1.1 million

Clearwater Paper Corp. has agreed to pay $1.1 million to settle allegations of federal Clean Air Act violations at its Lewiston mill.

The Spokane-based company will pay a $300,000 civil penalty and spend $800,000 on stricter pollution controls at the pulp mill, according to a negotiated settlement signed by the company, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Justice.

“We don’t agree with EPA’s reasoning. We don’t believe that we were ever in violation of our air permit,” said Matt Van Vleet, a Clearwater Paper spokesman. “But we agreed to settle rather than go through lengthy, expensive litigation.”

The violations stemmed from pulp washers and digesters that failed to capture all of the air emissions as required, said Roylene Cunningham, an EPA compliance officer. The permit required the equipment to be completely enclosed, so that no gases escaped, she said.

During a 2009 inspection, EPA officials observed emissions “puffing out” of the pulp washers. The digesters that cook the wood chips also had gases escaping, Cunningham said.

The majority of the pollutants were being captured, but emissions such as sulfur, methanol and formaldehyde were escaping, she said.

Clearwater Paper has already spent $43,000 to replace the doors on the pulp washers, and the company will spend $800,000 on a new piping system to capture gases in the digester.

Van Vleet, the company’s spokesman, said no workers or community members were harmed. But Ed Kowalski, director of EPA’s office of compliance and enforcement in Seattle, said that reducing illegal factory emissions is important for protecting air quality and community health.

Clearwater Paper is the nation’s largest manufacturer of private-label tissue products sold in grocery stores and a major producer of paperboard.

The negotiated settlement is subject to a 30-day public comment period before it becomes final.

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