By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News
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The Olympic Region Clean Air Agency hearing on the company's permit application to build a cooling tower for the nearly completed project will be in Room 160 of the Clallam County Courthouse, 223 E. Fourth St.
ORCCA Executive Director Fran McNair will preside over the session as the hearing examiner, ORCAA Professional Engineer Mark Goodin said Friday.
“Staff is recommending approval,” he said.
It's up to the hearing examiner to decide when to make a decision, Goodin said.
The cogeneration project, which is slated for completion by Sept. 1, has been opposed by environmental groups, including the North Olympic Group Sierra Club, that have warned of dangers from unregulated nanoparticle emissions that are created when biomass burns.
A similar $55 million biomass cogeneration project that recently was delayed by Port Townsend Paper Corp. also has encountered stiff opposition and legal challenges.
The 30-foot dual-cell, 5,500-gallon-per-minute tower would cool water from a steam turbine that, along with a biomass-fired boiler, is integral to Nippon's $71 million biomass cogeneration plant.
The boiler, which will have a heat input capacity of about 420 million British thermal units, will generate steam for both the mill and a 20-megawatt generator by burning biomass, or wood waste such as slash.
In the cooling tower, filtered water from the Elwha River would cool the turbine's surface condenser before it is used at Nippon's Ediz Hook mill, which produces telephone-book paper and newsprint.
The drawdown from the Elwha River will decrease water consumption from the river by more than 2 million gallons a day.
ORCAA had delayed a preliminary determination on the permit to evaluate the consequences of the National Park Service's addition of sodium hypochlorite — the active ingredient in bleach — to water in the industrial pipeline that leads to the Elwha Water Treatment Plant 5 miles upstream from the mill.
Sodium hypochlorite is being added to the water during dam demolition in the $325 million Elwha River restoration project, in which Elwha Dam has been removed and Glines Canyon Dam is expected to be completely down later this year.
ORCAA officials wanted to look at the impact on cooling tower emissions of residual chlorine remaining in river water after it reaches the mill.
Water warmed in the cooling process flows down the fill material and comes in contact with air blown by 20-foot-diameter fans in each cell that evaporate the water, creating droplets called “drift” if the droplets leave the tower through the fan stacks.
Bob Sextro, who co-chairs the North Olympic Group Sierra Club with Monica Fletcher of Port Townsend, said Friday that ORCAA should have evaluated the pollution impacts from the boiler and the cooling tower as one project, not two.
Sextro contended that while the cooling tower will produce a small amount of hazardous air pollutants, also known as HAPS, the pollutants produced by the cooling tower and the boiler together exceed the legal limit for HAPS.
“They are integrally tied,” he said.
“Without the boiler, you don't need the cooling tower.”
Once water treatment stops, “most of the emissions will be negligible from the cooling tower,” Sextro added.
Mill Manager Harold Norlund, who did not return calls for comment Friday, said earlier this week that the project has been approved under all applicable laws and has withstood every legal challenge.
He said in December that the cooling tower permit is the last of the numerous city, county, state and federal approvals the company needs to obtain for the plant to go online.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.