Skookumchuck pulp mill. Paper Excellence file

Kootenay pulp mill receives more than $100,000 in fines

Skookumchuck Pulp Mill is located just north of Kimberley/Cranbrook

The Skookumchuck Pulp Mill, located just north of Kimberley and Cranbrook, has received a series of fines from the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy Environmental Protection Division for exceeding permitted discharge limits of treated wastewater ($52,000); non compliance with air emissions ($18,800); and landfill non-compliance ($40,000).

The first fine was levied in January 2021, and the second and third in April 2021.

The fines reflect various incidents of non-compliance between 2017 and 2020.

Margie Jamieson is a Wildsight board member, who lives in the Skookumchuck area. She says it concerns here that it took three years after the first incident to levy a fine.

”Lab tests on trout showed that 70-100 per cent died when exposed to pulp mill effluent for four days. This happened four times in 2018 and 2019,” she said.

The pulp mill was provided an opportunity to respond to the penalty in September 2020, and did not dispute the contraventions, but did provide additional evidence regarding efforts taken to prevent the contraventions and re-occurrence of the contraventions.

A statement from Paper Excellence Canada, which operates the pulp mill said that for each incident the mill has undertaken changes so the exceedences won’t happen again.

In the case of exceeding waste water discharge Paper Excellence says that the problems occurred during a time when the mill was experiencing “upset conditions”, which forced shutdown several times during cold winter months. It was during start-up that cold air temperatures impacted the removal of contaminant from the effluent.

Changes made include:

▪ reducing mill liquid discharges during upset mill conditions,

▪ installing additional aerators in the plant’s aeration basins, and

▪ installing equipment that allows additional bacteria to be added to the treatment system to enhance its performance.

There have been no further issues since these actions were taken, Paper Excellence says.

For the air emissions non-compliance, the $18,800 fine was issued for events between November 2017 and January 2020. The Paper Excellence statement says the mill is in compliance 99.99 per cent of the time.

Changes undertaken include:

▪ Maintenance work was immediately performed on the power boiler along with operating adjustments which resulted in a significant improvement in discharge opacity.

▪ The mill has instituted a yearly preventative maintenance program for the bleach plant scrubber whereby regular inspections and cleaning is performed.

The mill continues to monitor its performance in these matters closely, the statement said.

The third fine was for landfill non-compliance in the amount of $40,000. The mill’s permit requires maintaining a leak detection system, and although Paper Excellence intended to pursue a permit amendment that would eliminate the need for the system, it didn’t do so immediately and the requirement for the leak detection system remained in the permit.

The mill will now seek the permit amendment to reflect that its current landfill operations meet industry standards.

Graham Kissack, VP, EHS and Communications for Paper Excellence, says that the company is disclosing all fines in an effort to be entirely transparent with the community. He also said, all together they add up to 45 minutes of non-compliance over a number of years.

He said there are three separate fines and he doesn’t believe the Ministry has released details on the second two yet.

“This is the entirety of the fines,” he said. “At the end of the day, we are interested in being as honest and transparent as possible. It’s an opportunity for us to improve.”

He said all the changes to prevent these incidents from happening again have occurred, although amending the landfill permit with the Ministry will take some time.