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Riverkeeper settles with Weyerhaeuser for $600,000 after alleged water quality violations

Weyerhaeuser will pay $600,000 after reaching a settlement with Columbia Riverkeeper, despite denying allegations it had broken state water quality laws.

"While we acknowledge the stormwater exceedances stemming from one or more of the facilities at the site, we did not break the law and continue to deny any wrongdoing related to this issue," Weyerhaeuser Public Affairs Manager Mary Catherine McAleer said in a statement. "We do, however, accept our shared responsibility in the community and the need to take positive, proactive measures to help protect and invest in the river."

As part of the settlement filed in the U.S. District Court of Western Washington, which stems from a lawsuit Riverkeeper filed in March against Weyerhaeuser NR Company's Longview mill, the timber company will pay $600,000 to Seeding Justice for its Columbia River Restoration Fund. Each violation after the agreement goes into effect will cost Weyerhaeuser $5,000.

Weyerhaeuser also was ordered to pay about $119,000 to cover Riverkeeper's legal costs.

Weyerhaeuser must also reroute one of its stormwater pipes by Dec. 31 so it no longer flows into the Columbia River and instead goes to a waste treatment plant, according to court documents.

The court also ordered the company to install aerators, one or more flow meters with monitoring probes, particulate streams and biochar sock filters at its 260-acre facility.

Seattle-based Weyerhaeuser has until May 19 to make the payments, according to court documents.

The U.S. Department of Justice has 45 days to review the settlement. After that, a federal-district court judge must approve the agreement before it can go into effect.

"People rely on the Columbia for clean water and strong salmon runs," Riverkeeper staff attorney Simone Anter said in a news release. "No corporation, including Weyerhaeuser, has the right to flout the law and pollute this irreplaceable river. The requirements of this agreement will see significant steps to reduce pollution at this massive facility."

Riverkeeper on March 7 sued Weyerhaeuser on grounds it had violated the Clean Water Act, which limits output of Biochemical Oxygen Demand, oil and grease, and regulates pH levels in hopes of preserving fish habitats.

"We have been working cooperatively with the Department of Ecology to address these concerns and are involved in an ongoing process to set appropriate permit conditions and standards for all facilities," McAleer wrote in the statement.

This is not the first time Weyerhaeuser has faced financial consequences for water quality violations. The state Department of Ecology in February dropped a $40,000 fine on the company's Longview mill for water quality and monitoring violations.

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