Blog post by Miles Johnson, Riverkeeper’s Clean Water Attorney—
The Weyerhaeuser pulp and paper mill in Longview, Washington, discharges a lot of pollution into the Columbia River. A lot means millions of pounds of sediments and paper pulp waste each year, and toxic pollutants like dioxins, metals, and chloroform. Riverkeeper’s legal team submitted comments to the Washington Department of Ecology, which is deciding whether to ratchet back on the amount of pollution from Weyerhaeuser’s mill or continue the toxic status quo. Ecology regulates Weyerhaeuser’s discharges by issuing a pollution permit (called a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System, or NPDES, permit).
The goal of the Clean Water Act was to eliminate all pollution discharges to our rivers and lakes by 1986. We have not met that goal—hundreds of pipes still dump pollutants into the Columbia alone. Riverkeeper works to ensure that water pollution permits become more stringent over time, so that less pollution reaches our river. We review pollution permits, challenge the most egregious permits, and bring enforcement actions if facilities violate their permits and the Clean Water Act. This technical and legal work is not always high-profile, but Riverkeeper’s attention to the details of Clean Water Act permitting and enforcement has real benefit: less pollution in our river, our food, and ourselves.
Today, Riverkeeper is asking Ecology to reduce pollution from the mill to protect endangered salmon and steelhead, as well as the people who eat locally-caught fish.