Department of Ecology News Release - April 14, 2015

Food processor settles wastewater penalty
Lab equipment purchase will help improve Sunnyside-area water quality

YAKIMA – A Sunnyside food processing company has resolved wastewater discharge violations and will participate in an environmental enhancement project to settle a penalty with the Washington Department of Ecology.

In February 2014, Johnson Foods, Inc. was fined $14,000 for a history of wastewater discharge violations. The company processes fruits and vegetables and sends its wastewater for treatment at the Port of Sunnyside.

Johnson Foods recently installed a system to neutralize pH in wastewater, as required by permit and cited as a problem in the penalty notice. The company was fined for several permit violations, including discharging highly acidic (low pH) wastewater that can cause costly problems for the industrial treatment plant. Excessively acidic waste can damage collection system infrastructure, increase odors and upset processing reactors and lagoons. Johnson maintains their treatment processes didn’t cause harm.

In lieu of paying the penalty, the company has agreed to purchase nearly $11,000 in water quality lab equipment for the Roza Sunnyside Board of Joint Control. The equipment will allow the joint irrigation board to monitor and improve the overall water quality in the valley through its services.

 “Once we got our arms around the problem, we appreciated the help offered by Ecology,” said owner Gary Johnson. “Quite frankly, it was refreshing to work with them to solve our issues, and return to production. And help the lab at the same time.”

The new laboratory has been accredited by Ecology and is scheduled to be completed this summer.

“By working this out together, Ecology and Johnson Foods are keeping the environmental benefit of this settlement in the community,” said Elaine Brouillard, water quality supervisor for the joint board laboratory. “Roza and Sunnyside districts are grateful Mr. (Gary) Johnson is willing to provide equipment for our new water quality laboratory. Automating how glassware is cleaned frees up the staff to work on issues more relevant to the over 10,000 landowners we serve.”

The penalty will be settled once the lab equipment is delivered and Johnson Foods becomes up-to-date with its permit compliance schedule. The agreement doesn’t limit Ecology’s regulatory authority to issue administrative orders or enforcement actions for violations not addressed in this agreement.

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Contacts:

Joye Redfield-Wilder, communications, 509-575-2610; @ecyCentral