EPA fines Silver Bay Seafoods over seafloor waste pile

Aerial view of Sawmill Cove in 2014. (KCAW file photo)

Federal regulators have fined a Sitka seafood processor for allowing its waste pile on the seafloor to balloon to more than double the size allowed by its permit.

That’s according to the EPA’s regional office in Seattle, which announced the terms of a settlement on Wednesday.

EPA compliance officer Tara Martich is assigned to the case. She says Silver Bay’s dive surveys revealed the extent of the plant’s pollution in Sawmill Cove.

“They found a 2.75 acre pile and that was much larger than the one-acre limit in their permit,” Martich told CoastAlaska.

The federal agency accused Silver Bay Seafoods of violating the Clean Water Act by dumping excess blood, oily waste and foam into the water.

But, the company doesn’t have to admit to the violation, according to the terms of its settlement.

It now appears to have addressed the problem. The company paid a $82,500 penalty and is opting to put a screen on its waste pipe to reduce the volumes it discharges.

Excess seafood waste can strain the seafloor habitat. 

“You know, permit limits are in place for a reason,” Martich said. “And it’s really so that these facilities produce the least amount of harm to the water that’s receiving the pollutants.”

Under the terms of a settlement the company signed in September, Silver Bay has until the end of 2022 to reduce the pile to cover 1 acre or less.

Silver Bay representatives didn’t immediately respond to a phone call seeking comment.