Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Magnolia seafood firm pays $430,000 pollution settlement

by Matt Rosenberg August 12th, 2012

Headquartered at Fishermen’s Terminal in Interbay at the eastern edge of Seattle’s Magnolia neighborhood, across from historic Ballard, Icicle Seafoods is a King Salmon in the U.S. seafood industry. Icicle harvests and processes several species of fish and crab from Alaskan waters, runs fish farming operations in the Northwest and Chile, and more than 20 years ago developed ground-breaking new technologies for freezing fresh catch at sea. The Seattle Times has reported Icicle is now owned by a New York-based private investment fund, and had 2010 sales of $400 million. But last Friday in a signed consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice that was drawn up on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency, Icicle agreed to pay a $430,000 settlement for a series of U.S. Clean Air Act violations from 2006 to 2008, for discharges of an ozone-depleting refrigerant called R-22 from its seagoing vessels and processing facilities.

According to a news release from the EPA Region 10 office in Seattle, Icicle didn’t quickly enough repair leaks of R-22 on its vessels and at its processing plants; didn’t make sure that repairs to refrigeration units were done properly; didn’t use required pollution control equipment when repairs were performed; and fell short on required record keeping for refrigeration units.

“There is a clear link between the deterioration of the ozone layer and the release of certain substances used for refrigeration. Companies using these chemicals in the course of business must do so responsibly by repairing leaks and preventing releases into the atmosphere,” said Ed Kowalski, Director of the Region 10 Office of Compliance and Enforcement.

According to the EPA, depletion of ozone in the earth’s stratosphere can result in greater ultraviolet radiation reaching the planet’s surface, which studies in turn have linked to heightened risk of skin cancer, cataracts, immune system malfunction, crop damage and reduced yields, and possibly also harm to marine phytoplankton, described by the agency as “the base of the ocean food chain.”

The EPA statement also notes that, “R-22 is among a set of refrigerants being phased out of use due to their high ozone depletion potential under the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.”

In addition to paying the settlement, Icicle agreed to make repairs, and in the future to initiate fixes of refrigerant leaks at an earlier stage. The Consent Decree is to be published in The Federal Register, for public comment, according to Region 10 EPA.

It wasn’t the first time Icicle has paid to settle environmental violations. In 2004, the company and two subsidiaries were issued a fine of $3.44 million by a branch of the U.S. Department of Commerce, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), for exceeding crab harvest limits in Alaskan waters. However, earlier this year in a controversial decision by NOAA, that fine was settled for $615,000. In 2003, Icicle paid $85,000 to settle with the EPA on alleged violations of the U.S. Clean Water Act in Resurrection Bay, Alaska which resulted from operations at one of its processing plants.

RELATED:

1) Why Are Many Alaskan Fishing Fleets Based In Seattle?, “I Wonder Why?,” KPLU-FM, NPR affiliate, Pacific Lutheran University, Tacoma, Wash.

2) Video via KPLU-FM – from the TV reality show, Deadliest Catch, a slice of fishing vessel work life on the high seas of Alaska:


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