Juneau AK (6/8/2022) – The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) penalized Silver Bay Seafoods LLC $467,469 for water quality violations at its Naknek River facility in Bristol Bay. Silver Bay Seafoods has also agreed to take corrective actions in response to significant violations of their Alaska Pollutant Discharge Eliminations System (APDES) permit. In addition to numerous violations found at the facility during a scheduled on-site inspection in 2021, the company also repeatedly discharged significantly more fish waste into the Naknek River than permitted, despite DEC denying Silver Bay Seafoods’ request to exceed discharge limits.
“The terms of an APDES permit ensure a facility operates in a matter that is protective of public health and the environment, an especially important consideration in an area that supports a large commercial fishery and attracts sport fishers from all over the world,” said Randy Bates, DEC Division of Water Director. “Not only did Silver Bay Seafoods’ knowing and recalcitrant disregard for permit terms put the local environment at risk, but it also gave them a material competitive advantage over the other seafood processors in the area who undertook the costs of compliance.”
The Silver Bay Seafoods facility is about five miles upstream from the mouth of the Naknek River, alongside other processing facilities up and down stream. The area is influenced by the significant tidal flows that wash in and out of the river, as well as the current of the river itself, which disperses the fish waste discharged by the processing facilities. However, there is a practical limit to the amount of waste the tidal river system can handle and exceeding it could cause concentrations of standing fish waste to accumulate and stagnate, leading to upstream and downstream consequences for the local environment.
Silver Bay Seafoods’ APDES permit allowed for the discharge of up to 10 million pounds of fish waste a year. They exceeded the limit without authorization by 2.9 million pounds (29 percent of the permitted limit) in 2017 and by 5.1 million pounds (51 percent of the permitted limit) in 2020. Their APDES permit also requires catch transfer water, wastewater sent from the vessel offloading fish to a processing plant, to be discharged through the plant’s outfall to avoid water quality impacts. The onsite inspection in 2021 found Silver Bay allowing a vessel to discharge catch transfer water at the dock, causing a water quality violation of blood and foam on the water surface, in violation of their permit and DEC’s direction not to discharge at the dock. DEC inspectors also found grind size limit exceedances, best management practice plan violations, and failure to self-report non-compliance with the permit conditions.
The penalty that Silver Bay Seafoods negotiated with the DEC Division of Water takes into consideration the severity of the violations as well as the economic benefits the company realized when they avoided the cost of complying with the permit conditions. The agreement includes required structural and operational changes the company must make to better ensure future compliance, as well as stipulated financial penalties that Silver Bay Seafoods will pay if the Naknek facility violates the terms of the permits in the future.
“As the Bristol Bay region prepares for a record setting return of 75 million sockeye salmon and the seafood processing season gets underway, those that benefit from our bountiful resources must comply with the terms of their permits,” said Bates. “Our permits are designed to maintain water quality and, going forward, we expect adherence to our requirements.”
Contact: Randy Bates, 907-465-5307 or firstname.lastname@example.org