Escanaba factory fined $ 244,000 for “black liquor” incident and fish deaths



GLADSTONE, MI – Michigan regulators have fined an Ohio-based paper company nearly $ 250,000 over a sewage-related incident that killed fish in the Escanaba River.

Verso Corporation is to make spill prevention and containment improvements at its Escanaba paper mill in addition to paying $ 244,451 in civil penalties and natural resource damage, following a settlement with the Department of ‘Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE).

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced the settlement on Wednesday, January 5. It follows a discharge of sewage from a mill in August 2020 that dropped dissolved oxygen levels in the river and killed around 500 pike, bass, walleye and other sport fish.

The Verso wastewater treatment plant was submerged by ‘black liquor’, a high-concentration organic pollutant from the decomposition of pulpwood that is typically burned for energy, which flooded the former. floor of a factory building when a pipe broke, EGLE said.

The incident caused a discharge of partially treated wastewater into the river, which drew oxygen from the water.

The dead fish were found downstream of the plant along a three-mile stretch between Dam No.2 and the mouth of the river at Little Bay De Noc on Lake Michigan.

The incident was a violation of Verso’s National Pollutant Release System permit to discharge wastewater into the environment. The 2,000-acre mill, which dates back a century and is about 730,000 tons of paper per year, pushes wastewater through a 35 million gallon per day system.

Verso did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“It is important that facilities properly manage, contain and control these high concentration pollutants to prevent degradation of surface water that can lead to fish kills,” said Tom Asmus, EGLE Environmental Quality Analyst at Marquette. “These efforts are necessary to protect our rivers, lakes and streams, and the resources and recreational opportunities they provide.”

The Escanaba River is a popular destination for anglers, paddlers, and other outdoor enthusiasts stretching 52 miles through parts of Marquette and Delta counties.

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