By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News
Want more top stories? Sign up here for daily or weekly newsletters with our top news.
Dr. Tom Locke, health officer for Jefferson County as well as Clallam County, issued his finding Monday afternoon, taking into account material that was presented during an all-day hearing Nov. 28.
The company will appeal his decision to the Pollution Controls Hearing Board, according to company spokesperson Kevin Scott.
At issue is whether Port Townsend Paper’s mill should be granted an inert waste permit or be required to attain a more-stringent limited-use permit.
For its annual permit renewal in September, the mill applied for an extension of its inert classification, which the county agency through Locke denied Oct. 17.
The mill appealed the decision Oct. 22, triggering the review hearing, over which Locke presided.
The inert waste permit was first granted in 1989.
It was renewed several times since, an action that health officials now say was an error in judgment.
In still denying the permit, Locke said he took the action because of concerns about the changing nature of waste generated by the mill during operation of an expanded biomass cogeneration plant.
The $55 million, 24-megawatt biomass plant is planned to be operative next year.
Locke has said the granting of the original permit was in error because more is known about waste than when it first was approved.
At the Nov. 28 hearing, the county presented witnesses that maintained that any facility that exceeds an 8.5 pH rating should not be qualified as inert.
The amount of acidity or alkalinity of a substance is measured by pH.
Testimony for the mill estimated the facility’s pH rating at 11 or 12, suggesting alkalinity, but stated that level was within the scope of current regulations.
The mill has based its appeal on the idea that its operations have not changed, so the permit process should also remain consistent.
“Port Townsend Paper has successfully managed the landfill as an inert waste landfill according to regulations that have not changed since 2004,” Scott said in a statement.
“The wastes taken to the landfill have also not changed. The waste management facility permit should have been renewed last January when it was originally submitted.
“The mill remains willing to discuss the terms of the landfill permit with the county and state agencies [but plans to] file an appeal with the Pollution Control Hearings Board to preserve our rights for review of this permit denial.”
Jefferson County Reporter Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at email@example.com.