There was a significant uptick in complaints about odor coming from the Port Townsend Paper mill in September. (Cydney McFarland/Peninsula Daily News)

There was a significant uptick in complaints about odor coming from the Port Townsend Paper mill in September. (Cydney McFarland/Peninsula Daily News)

Ecology says weather likely culprit in rise in Port Townsend Paper mill odor complaints

PORT TOWNSEND — The state Department of Ecology has seen a significant increase in complaints about odor from the Port Townsend Paper Co. mill.

So far, there have been a documented 339 complaints in 2017. Of those, 174 were complaints submitted during September, and Ecology staff members said they are still counting.

Septembers complaints were up significantly from the 32 complaints submitted in August and 43 complaints in July, according to Shingo Yamazaki of Ecology, who is responsible for all permitting and inspection at the Port Townsend mill.

Yamazaki said he visited the mill last week and found all emissions systems operating correctly. He added that there have been a few small blips of higher emissions recorded in September and early October, but none that have cause for concern.

“They’re still well within the legal limits,” Yamazaki said.

According to Yamazaki, since the mill runs constantly, any change in wind and weather patterns can cause odorous emissions from the mill to blow into areas of Port Townsend where they can settle.

“Since the mill runs 24/7, smell can’t be regulated depending on weather,” Yamazaki said. “It just wouldn’t be efficient.”

Local citizen groups have been collecting data and submitting complaints to Ecology. Two Facebook groups, the PT Airwatchers with 205 members and MillOdorous with 182 members, see odor reports posted every day.

“We decided to start a group on Facebook since it’s a convenient forum,” said Gretchen Brewer, founder of the PT Airwatchers Facebook group. “There’s a whole range of people we weren’t reaching through other channels.”

Brewer said the smell has grown worse in the past few months and with more development in town, more people are being exposed to the odor as well.

Brewer said the group has contacted Ecology but so far haven’t been told what might be causing the recent increase in noticeable odors.

“We just haven’t gotten a good answer as to why there’s this uptick in stench,” Brewer said.

MillOdorus group administrator Nancy Botta posted that she recently sent 200 odor reports and a dozen of the top group comments from September to Ecology and a number of local groups, including the Port Townsend City Council and Jefferson County commissioners.

The MillOdorus group also tracks complaints using a Google Map. So far, there have already been 50 complaints from all over Port Townsend, from Mill Road to downtown to the North Beach neighborhood, recorded on the MillOdorus Facebook page.

Yamazaki said that simply the position of the mill at a slightly lower elevation from most of the business and residential areas causes the odor to stick around longer.

Once it’s blown out of the mill, it will settle into some of the lower-lying areas, including downtown.

“The odor compounds are mostly heavier gasses, so they tend to sit low,” Yamazaki said. “Port Townsend is kind of in the unfortunate position where there’s a lot of things that can contribute to odor.”

Yamazaki added that the cooler temperatures that hit in September and now October could also be aggravating the odors.

“We are operating well within our environmental permits,” said Felix Vicino, human resources manager for the Port Townsend Paper Corporation.

“The state’s Ecology Department recently stated that high pressure and low winds are a factor, and we concur.”

________ 

Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Cydney McFarland can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 55052, or at [email protected]peninsuladailynews.com.

More in News

A large group of Ride the Hurricane bicyclists approach the Heart O’ the Hills near the beginning of the 17-mile trek up to 5,242 feet. About 800 riders participated in the event on Sunday with a round-trip ride to the top of Hurricane Ridge and back to Port Angeles. (Dave Logan/for Peninsula Daily News)
Ride the Hurricane

Dave Logan For Peninsula Daily News A large group of Ride the… Continue reading

Nine races on Tuesday’s primary election ballot

Clallam County turnout 22 percent so far

Brinnon Group grant to monitor water quality in Hood Canal

Project also to focus on Duckabush River

Volunteer coordinator Debbi Steele, center, welcomes visitors to Saturday’s Community Build Project open house in Port Townsend. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/Peninsula Daily News)
Community receives tour of tiny house village

Rental spaces come with rules, 90-day leases

wolfe
Olympic Medial Center considers how to expand emergency service in Sequim

Regulatory issues big hurdle for opening hospital

The Clallam County Sheriff’s Office's command staff with accreditation plaques from the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs. Pictured, from left, are Chief Civil Deputy Alice Hoffman, Sheriff Bill Benedict, Chief Criminal Deputy Brian King, Administrative Manager Lorraine Shore, Chief Corrections Deputy Wendy Peterson, Undersheriff Ron Cameron and Corrections Sergeant Don Wenzl.
Clallam County Sheriff’s Office, jail earn accreditation

The Clallam County Sheriff’s Office will be recognized this… Continue reading

Port Angeles Disabled American Veterans office to reopen

Disabled American Veterans (DAV) will reopen its Port Angeles… Continue reading

Private or state plan? Deadline coming on state long-term care insurance

Two years ago, Washington became the first state in the… Continue reading

Most Read