OLYMPIA - The Weyerhaeuser lumber mill in Raymond has been fined $49,000 by the state Department of Ecology (Ecology) for failing to properly monitor and report flow and pollution levels in its wastewater discharges.

The mill discharges its waste- water into Raymond's sewer plant. If the sewer plant receives too much water or pollution, the plant can be pushed beyond its treatment limits, sending untreated or partially treated water into an already troubled Willapa River.

"It's important that a major discharger like the Weyerhaeuser mill monitor its wastewater and correct any problems to make sure the sewer plant and the river aren't jeopardized," said Dave Peeler, who manages Ecology's water quality program.

The Willapa River suffers from excessive bacteria, low-oxygen levels and temperature problems and is on the state's cleanup list. The mill's waste water has the potential to cause problems because it is warm, can have wide-ranging pH levels, and contains dissolved solids.

The mill is required to monitor its wastewater and stormwater discharges, and then submit reports to Ecology. Pollution limits in the permit are set to protect the receiving waters.

"We've offered technical assistance to the mill over the past two years, yet problems persist," said Peeler. "We believe this mill should be able to operate without posing an undue threat to water quality in the Raymond area."

Peeler said the mill was unable to monitor its wastewater flow for five straight months last summer because a flow meter was not operating properly. This affected the mill's ability to properly measure how much pollution it was carrying.

Ecology also cited the mill for not properly reporting pollution levels in its stormwater and for failing to test the stormwater for copper and lead. The mill's storm- water, which is discharged into the Willapa River, contains suspended particles that can irritate fish gills. It also carries high levels of zinc and pollutants that rob oxygen from the receiving water.

In addition to the penalty, the mill was ordered to fix the flow meter within 30 days.

The mill has 30 days to appeal the penalty to Ecology and to the state Pollution Control Hearings Board.

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