Oregon’s seafood industry has concerns about the new version of a permit to regulate wastewater discharges from seafood processing facilities.
The draft 900-J National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System general permit will replace a previous version that expired in 2011, but the new version includes significant changes in industry practices. The state hopes to address pollutants from organic material as well as oil, grease, bacteria and ammonia that can be harmful to aquatic life.
“There are new parameters that could be a challenge for processors,” said Laura Gleim, a spokeswoman for the Oregon Department of Environmental Equality. “This renewed permit places limits on pollutants that didn’t have limits in previous iterations of this permit, including ammonia, chlorine, bacteria and temperature.”
Wastewater discharges from nine seafood facilities in Clatsop County are already covered under — or the facilities have applied for — the general permit which expired in 2011 or the individual National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit, including BioOregon Protein, Bornstein Seafoods, Astoria Pacific Seafoods and Pacific Coast Seafoods.
To comply with the new general permit, processors may have to alter standard operating procedures and management practices. Some processors may need to upgrade their facilities and bring on more advanced water treatment and monitoring systems that will likely come with hefty price tags. Depending on where they are located, processors may struggle to find room for secondary treatment.
“I don’t think there’s anybody in the industry who thinks that the implementation of this permit is not going to cost something,” said Lori Steel with the West Coast Seafood Processors Association, which represents 16 of the 24 plants in Oregon that are subject to a renewal of the permit.
The association maintains that some of the state’s proposals to ensure water quality are not feasible for seafood processing facilities, which often handle very different species depending on the season.
“What’s going through the wastewater changes,” Steel said. “It’s not consistent year-round. … (DEQ) is drawing analogies to other industries and trying to implement the same requirements that a lot of municipal industries have.”
To her, it is like trying to fit square pegs into round holes.
Lacy Ogan, with Pacific Seafood, said the company is working with industry partners to help the state develop “an appropriate permit.”
Steel said the industry isn’t “looking for the status quo, or no regulation, or to go back. We’re just looking to work with the state to create something that will address the needs of the water and the needs of the processors.”
Pacific Seafood retained its permit coverage even after a fire burned down the company’s Warrenton facility in 2013. The processor will have to update its application materials in response to the new permit, Gleim said.
The Department of Environmental Quality is accepting public comments on a draft of the proposed permit through March 29 and is holding three public hearings along the coast, including one in Astoria on March 19. That hearing is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. at Clatsop Community College’s Columbia Hall, Room 219.