DEP: Appvion caused fish kill
Notices of violation filed after dye spill at Roaring Spring paper mill
The state Department of Environmental Protection has filed two notices of violation against Appvion in connection with a chemical spill at its paper mill in Roaring Spring that led to a fish kill in the Frankstown Branch of the Juniata River in August.
About 3,700 gallons of a security-document dye called Chlorostain overflowed from a holding tank and went through the plant’s industrial waste treatment facility on Aug. 19, according to a DEP inspection report provided by department spokesman John Repetz.
DEP issued the notices for failure to notify the department of the spill immediately and because of dissolved oxygen levels that violated permit standards in effluent for the two days after the spill, according to the inspection report.
In a Sept. 17 letter to the plant’s environmental manager, the department stated that it doesn’t “(waive) any enforcement action available” for the violations.
A person fishing in the river downstream from the outfall, which is near Puttstown, 5 miles below the mill, first reported the kill on Aug. 26, according to the inspection report.
The inspector then found about 40 dead fish, mostly suckers, catfish and carp, in and along the river for 4.5 miles downstream — but none upstream from the outfall, according to the inspection report.
Plant Environmental Manager Rob Stasik told the inspector he didn’t report the spill when it happened because there were no high levels of ammonia within the plant’s treatment facility afterward, like he would have expected, based on a Chlorostain spill four years ago, according to the inspection report.
“Daily tests for pH, DO and color were all within the permit limits,” the report states.
But the outfall wasn’t checked after the spill, according to the inspection report.
The outfall is usually checked every afternoon, the inspection report stated.
Nor was the area on the river downstream from the outfall checked in the days following the spill, according to the inspection report.
“(Stasik) said that based on his observation of the treatment plant and the ammonia testing results, he did not believe the chemical spill had an adverse impact on the plant or the plant effluent, and that is why he did not report the incident to the Department,” the inspection report states.
“This is an opportunity to do something about what has become a fine trout stream,” said Bill Anderson, president of the Little Juniata River Association.
The plant regularly discharges pollutants to the Frankstown Branch because its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit is “liberal,” based on the designation of the river as an impaired warm water stream, Anderson said.
Those NPDES limits may have been valid 20 years ago, when the mill management chose to run a 5-mile outfall pipe to the river, after it became problematic to discharge effluent to high-quality Halter Creek, but the river is much less impaired than it used to be, due to improvements in the Altoona Water Authority’s Westerly Sewer Treatment Plant, Anderson said.
The river deserves better protection now, Anderson said.
“The Frankstown Branch needs friends to keep after it,” he said.
Appvion is trying to find ways to prevent another overflow of the chemical storage tank ” such as changing the valving or installing a high-level alarm,” the inspection report states.
Stasik declined to comment to the Mirror on Monday on the violation notices, although he said he would pass on the request for comment to others in the company.
Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.