October 1, 2008

Verso Enters Consent Agreement

By Donna M. Perry

JAY - Verso Paper has entered into a consent agreement with the state stipulating an $11,350 penalty for violating wastewater discharge and air emission licenses and permits at the Androscoggin Mill.

The incidents occurred in 2007 and 2008.

The mill is licensed by Maine and the town of Jay to discharge treated wastewater into the Androscoggin River.

The Maine Board of Environmental Protection and the Maine Office of the Attorney General approved the administrative agreement in September. Mill Manager Richard Jackson signed the agreement Aug. 11.

The agreement takes care of all the violation notices that were in Verso Paper's file at the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, according to Verso spokesman Bill Cohen.

"We had said after the wastewater discharge hearings are over, we wanted to figure out and start working with people in a more collaborative way," Cohen said. "We were going to work with environmental groups, we were going to work with municipalities and employees, and we were going to work with regulators to establish meaningful dialogue to try and heal the wounds that came from the tension of litigation. Not that everything was negative, but we clearly didn't have good open communications.

"So we went to the department, and we asked them if they would work with us to clean up all the notices that were sitting in our file. They did work with us and this is the result of that. This is not uncommon, and a lot of businesses do it every few years. This is the first time I can remember that we've done this at the Jay mill."

The state had issued notices of violations to the company for some incidents occurring in a two-year period since Verso bought the mill from International Paper on July 6, 2006.

IP's state-issued licenses and permits issued on Sept. 21, 2005 were transferred by the DEP to Verso. After several appeals to the Board of Environmental Protection that started when IP had the license, the state modified Verso's license and permit on Feb. 7, 2008.

Under Verso's ownership, there have been four incidents that involved unlicensed discharges due to leaks from the wastewater treatment facility, the DEP staff's memorandum to the Board of Environmental Protection states.

Two additional incidents were unlicensed discharges of leachate from the landfill that occurred during heavy rains.

According to the DEP memo, the "various unlicensed discharges were of relatively small quantities and pollutant loads. Some were partially collected and/or soaked into the ground and did not reach surface waters. The department is not aware of any adverse impacts from those spills that did reach surface waters."

The DEP also didn't anticipate any problems in the Androscoggin River of the temperature exceeding standards because it was only by a small amount, the memo states.

The DEP recommended the agreement and the monetary penalty of $10,850 for violations of water discharges and $500 for air emission violations.

The consent agreement outlines dates for corrective actions to be completed through early 2010. Some have already been done.

Jay Environmental Code Enforcement Officer Shiloh Ring said the mill has complied with a town-issued consent order on those that violated the town's rules and Verso is continuing those corrective actions.

Originally published by Staff Writer.

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