FAQs about Citizen Odor & Fume Reporting
♦ Did you know? …that it is illegal for the mill’s fumes to go off of their property (beyond PTPC’s “fenceline”). So if you are smelling it, they are breaking the law! It’s called “Toxic Trespass”.
♦ Toxic Trespass? What’s that? In addition to being unpleasant and unhealthy, it’s considered “trespassing” when a company’s fumes go off-property onto someone else’s. For instance, different state laws preclude odors, particulates, dust, and haze that interfere with use and enjoyment of property or cause damage to business or property (e.g., WACs 173-400-040, 405-040 and 401-630).
♦ Click here for how and to whom to report. Primary contact is WA Dept of Ecology. If you plan to, or find yourself reporting regularly, you may check in with MillOdorous, a closed group on Facebook, to add to community maps. (Aside from reporting, a place to discuss all things “mill” is our PT AirWatchers group on Facebook.)
We don’t prioritize calling PTPC (360) 379-4224 as it doesn’t trigger action as effectively, only being sent to Ecy at the end of the month and not included in Ecy’s count of calls. PTPC only occasionally follows up in the short term and is dimissive of people who call.
♦ How far do the mill’s fumes go? In all directions, from Port Townsend to south of the Hood Canal Bridge, west to Discovery Bay, north to the San Juan Islands, and east across Whidbey Island. The majority is in Port Townsend, and regularly south to Hadlock, Chimacum, and not uncommonly in Port Ludlow and beyond.
♦ Quick tip: Short answers on your reports will save your energy and spirit! Breathe in a little “thank you” from all of us for even a single report — it is noticed and we appreciate it!
♦ What effects to mention in your report? Mentioning an effect on your health, “use and enjoyment of property”, or “damage to property or business” are helpful, because they reach three different statutes for action beyond typically minor fines for not operating the mill right.
♦ Who can report? Anyone who “lives, works or recreates” in a place that gets the mill smell, including visitors whether they are here for business or pleasure.
♦ Description? Why describe the smell? Don’t worry too much — whether it’s diapers, sour, metallic, ammonia, sulfur, turpentine, rotting, smoky, it’s all “mill smell”, which works. Specifics help DOE zero in on what process(es) at the mill were out of whack.
♦ Have our reports accomplished anything yet? For instance, what?
• Coverage in the national media • The attention of officials who claimed to be unaware of the problem • Added support for strengthening clean air laws • A basis for officials to take corrective actions • 2018 investigation by the Federal ATSDR into the effect of mill’s emissions on the community, which included air monitoring • Provided a basis for a 2015 joint regional air quality study between UW and ORCAA • Periodic fines on PTPC for “exceedences” that would have passed DOE’s attention • Opening up conversations with officials • a reality check for people’s experiences and a spur to action
So, THANK YOU!
♦ Quick Tip: put Angie or Shingo’s number on your speed dial. Note: it doesn’t matter which you contact and doesn’t add anything to call both of them. They are in the same office and work together.
♦ Will Ecology call me back? Yes, if you request it they are required to call you within 24 hours.
♦ How quickly do I need to report? Is it worth submitting older reports? Ecology more actively investigates complaints made within 48 hours of experiencing it, but ALL COMPLAINTS ADD TO THE PAPER TRAIL FOR FURTHER ACTION.
♦ Who else can I contact?
DOE is primary. Additionally, consider:
- Port Townsend Visitors Bureau, Economic Development Council, travel and visitor websites: They need to know that the pollution affects tourism, business and quality of life.
- Realtors and realtor associations: It is criminal that realtors don’t disclose the extent of the mill’s odor and pollution, and how much it can impact daily life here. People don’t realize how widespread and ongoing the stench is until they’ve lived here a while, and then it’s a nasty shock. Realtors downplay it. They need to be held accountable.
- State and Federal representatives: Source of massive taxpayer funded subsidies/entitlements for the mill.
♦ Doesn’t ORCAA (Olympic Region Clean Air Agency) handle complaints? ORCAA has no oversight of the mill and will refer you to DOE. When the Clean Air Act started in the 1970’s, three business categories — pulp mills, aluminum smelters and concrete manufacturers — got themselves exempted from ORCAA’s jurisdiction and put instead under WA Dept of Ecology’s Industrial Section. Although PTPC figures occasionally in some of ORCAA’s broadly general reports and studies, the mill is not in their bailiwick beyond that.