Clean Water Act settlement between Trident Seafoods and the Environmental
Protection agency might not be quite settled. St. Paul's tribe, Native
corporation, and fishing association are pushing the federal government to
reconsider terms that they say could lead to the closure of their only
year-round processing plant. KUCB's Alexandra Gutierrez reports.
September, the EPA announced that Trident was being fined $2.5 million for hundreds
of Clean Water Act violations documented at Alaska plants over the last decade
-- the biggest settlement of its kind. The company also agreed to spend $30
million on facility upgrades that would limit the discharge of fish waste that
can create dead zones on the seafloor.
18 of Trident's plants in Alaska are expected to see business change in one way
of another as a result of this agreement. The Akutan plant, for example, has
five years to develop a filtering process that will let next to nothing through
its screens and shrink their waste pile down by half. The Naknek facility has
three years to get a fishmeal plant up and running. But in St. Paul, there are
no slated upgrades at the Trident plant, and there's no extended timeline for
improvement: Starting this year, the facility there has simply been banned from
releasing any amount of fish waste between May and November, around the time
that fishing gets hot and that the shrinking population of fur seals gathers on
the Trident facility is the only shoreside plant in St. Paul and the island's
biggest moneymaker, local interests are saying that this rule could torpedo the
economy there. According to a letter sent to the Department of Justice by the
regional Native corporation TDX, which leases property to Trident, the
discharge ban would "effectively shut down the facility until Trident can
provide for other, expensive arrangements, if it decides to stay at all."
Because of that, it's asking the government to suspend the settlement language
that affects St. Paul -- or stay the decree entirely, if that's not possible.
Central Bering Sea Fishermen's Association expresses similar concerns. In its
letter, the community development quota group states that a restriction during
that time period would prevent the plant from processing up to $5 million worth
of halibut and about $1.5 million worth of king crab. They also suggest that
about a fifth of the town's population could see their income disappear if the
regulation causes the plant to shut down during the profitable summer and fall
the biggest potential wrinkle for the settlement could be that St. Paul's
tribal government says that it wasn't consulted as part of this process. The
Aleut Community of St. Paul Island argues that the EPA didn't follow federal
law *and* their own policy of including Native groups on civil legal matters.
now, the EPA is currently evaluating these comments, and the agency offered a
written statement that it "plans to complete the consultation process prior to
finalizing the consent decree." The agency added that part of the reason it
decided to go with an all-out ban on waste during the summer months is that the
St. Paul facility is processing a lot more halibut than it did when it first
got it its discharge permit two decades ago and that the plant is now releasing
50 times as much waste in area waters. Even though the agency doesn't know if
there are any dead zones around St. Paul, it says that because of that permit
history along with "routine non-compliance of the facility and the proximity of
the outfall to sensitive species and habitat, they decided to treat the Trident
plant there differently from plants in other parts of Alaska.
agency did not offer a timeline for their decision on the settlement.