PNW Wind Down LLC will pay an $89,000 penalty for repeatedly violating federal clean air rules while leasing and operating a tribally owned facility on the Colville Reservation in Omak, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced last week.

The facility is a lumber mill that produced plywood veneer from raw timber, according to an EPA press release. The predecessor company was known as Omak Wood Products.

In a settlement with PNW Wind Down, EPA alleges that the lumber mill exceeded permitted opacity limits during an emissions source test, failed to abide by the terms and conditions of a compliance order that the company agreed to, and did not submit a complete response to an information request issued by EPA under the Clean Air Act.

The facility, owned by the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation and leased and operated by Omak Wood Products LLC, re-started in September 2013 after being shut down for several years, the EPA said. EPA and Colville Tribal Air Quality staff received multiple complaints of heavy smoke and particulate pollution from local residents after the facility resumed operations.

Following these complaints, EPA provided several months of extensive technical and compliance assistance to the facility, the release said.

The facility failed to come into compliance and EPA issued an initial Notice of Violation in December 2013. Other failures to comply occurred prior to EPA initiating the current penalty action, according to the release. 

According to Ed Kowalski, Director of EPA Region 10’s Office of Compliance and Enforcement, “Operating a facility before air pollution controls are fully in place and effective, violating the terms of a compliance order, and not responding accurately to an Information Request are serious violations that we enforce aggressively. Companies operating air pollution sources on tribal lands will be held to the same Clean Air Act standards as those operating outside of a reservation.”

In a separate action, the Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology) issued an Administrative Order to Kinross Gold Corporation/Crown Resources Corporation (Crown/Kinross) on July 19, due to the extensive violations of the Buckhorn gold mine’s Clean Water Act permit, according to a press release from the Okanogan Highlands Alliance (OHA).

The administrative order requires an action plan to capture and treat contaminants emanating from the Buckhorn Mine. In addition, Crown/Kinross is required to document the effectiveness of the various mitigation efforts it has undertaken since the July 2013 settlement agreement of the $395,000 penalty for permit violations, and to report actual environmental improvements, according to the release. Crown/Kinross is required to model the contaminant transport and develop a plan for adaptive management to bring the mine into compliance with the permit and to maintain a capture zone for mine contaminants.

The administrative order contained 42 pages of permit violations that the Buckhorn Mine has reported in its monthly discharge monitoring reports during the past year, indicating that mine contaminants continue to leak from the mine into the surrounding ground and surface water, the release said.

“OHA applauds Ecology’s effort to address the water pollution problems at the Buckhorn Mine,” said David Kliegman, executive director of the Okanogan Highlands Alliance, in the release. “The mine must realistically identify the sources of the water quality problems and implement corrective actions.”