By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News
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The public hearing takes place at 7 p.m. tonight at the Fort Worden Commons, Company A, 200 Battery Way, and will be preceded by an informal question-and-answer period at 5 p.m.
The hearing is part of the Ecology permitting process for the mill, which is seeking permission to install two new refiners to help the mill produce stronger paper that is a more profitable product for the company, according to Port Townsend Paper President Roger Hagen.
The refiners, which the company hopes to have operating by the end of the year, provide a method of strengthening the pulp used in the paper machine that is cheaper than chemical alternatives, Hagan said.
In order to take full advantage of the new refiners, the mill will need to produce more pulp which could produce a 1 percent to 2 percent increase in total emissions from the facility, according to Hagan.
This projected increase falls within legal standards and does not exceed currently established maximum levels, according to Garin Shrieve, the industrial section manager for Ecology.
According to Ecology documents “a detectable increase in odors is not expected with the addition of the refiners.
“Odor is not a pollutant that is directly measured but odor-causing pollutants such as total reduced sulphur (TRS) may increase slightly as a result of the proposed project.”
This emissions increase would be about 0.8 pounds per day over the current 66 pounds per day, according to the Ecology document.
The project has drawn opposition from PT Airwatchers, whose members plan to comment at today’s hearing.
“I so wanted to support this project or at least give it a ‘pass,’ but then I looked at the numbers,” said Airwatchers president Gretchen Brewer.
“I’d love to support projects that make the mill more efficient but not at the expense of more damage to all of us.”
“Regardless of the amount of increases in toxic releases, where is the quid pro quo? Every increase in toxic discharge should be met with an equal or greater reduction in toxic discharges.”
Emissions of greenhouse gases from the mill would also increase by about 8,500 tons per year but would remain well within the 75,000 annual tons that would be considered “significant” by the EPA, according to Ecology.
Ecology determined in its review of the paper company’s proposal that its emission control units have enough capacity to handle increased emissions from the new refiners.
Port Townsend Paper produced about 625 tons per day of unbleached Kraft pulp and 267 tons per day of old corrugated cardboard pulp between September 2004 and June 2012.
Approval from Ecology is necessary before a facility is allowed to modify an existing source of air pollutants, with the facility required to submit a notice of construction application along with details about the project.
Port Townsend Paper provided the notice in Dec. 2013, and the public comment period will close Friday.
The project is not a done deal, Shrieve said, and the agency wants to hear public comment about why the project should or should not go forward.
The agency will take all the comments into consideration and issue a recommendation which could be ready in a month, he said.
The ruling will have to do with whether the project falls within current legal standards.
Whether these standards are too strict or too lax is not in the agency’s purview, he said.
“Even though we don’t address the laws themselves, those participating in this process will have a great opportunity to learn what they can do if they feel the laws need to be changed,” Shrieve said.
For more on the project, visit http://tinyurl.com/PDN-ptpaperrefiners or check for documents at the Port Townsend Public Library, 1220 Lawrence St.
Comments can be submitted online at http://tinyurl.com/ptpapercomments, by email to PTPC.email@example.com or by mail to Stephanie Ogle, P.E., Department of Ecology, Industrial Section, P.O. Box 47600, Olympia, WA 98504-7600.
Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie contributed to this report.