By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
A long-running water-pollution investigation involving the Lafarge plant in West Seattle has ended with a settlement and fine. As first reported Sunday by seattlepi.com, the company was fined $300,000, confirmed operations manager Jonathan Hall in an interview with WSB.
The investigation dates back to 2006. Hall (WSB photo at right) says the settlement has been “under discussion for close to 2 years” and was finalized by the U.S. Department of Justice a week ago. “The conversation encompassed a wide range of topics, and we have made some infrastructure changes here as part of that settlement, and of course also worked on some of the practices that we had … to make sure we were super tight as a result.”
The plant has gone through a major change since then, shutting down its kiln in 2010, but Hall said that since the “primary alleged violations were related to stormwater and stormwater-management practices, and of course it still rains here,” the settlement was relevant to its current operations. “We endeavor to keep a tight facility; we actually have close to 2 million gallons of stormwater storage here (and) have created a tight perimeter literally around the very edge of the plant, all the way around,” with curbing. “Part of that was what we agreed to, to the final 100 percent. We’re pretty proud of that … we think we strive to be something that the regulators are proud of, and believe we’re pretty damn close to that.”
100 percent of “the stormwater that falls on the site” is collected, Hall said, and retained to be treated before being discharged into the river. “Twice a day, crews are out inspecting all our transfer stations for the water. We are closely monitoring tank levels and the water treatment system, and (spend) a whole lot of time making sure the area the water does fall on is swept as quickly as it can be after it’s been used. … Water is a huge focus point for us.”
Hall says there are no other pollution-related actions pending regarding the plant – “this closes out all the action we’re aware of.”
One of Lafarge’s current lines of work is related to the ongoing cleanup work on the river; dredged sediments move through the plant on the way to a landfill. “We are an access point for bringing it out.” That work, said Hall, has for more than two years been reusing part of the plant that otherwise has been inactive since the kiln shutdown.
That’s part of “how we re-created the facility,” a topic we also discussed in our conversation at the plant. It has a permanent staff of about 30, with about 30 other workers of varius statuses on site, on any given day. They are the “#1 distributor of low-carbon-dioxide cements,” and of products using recycled materials, such as “cementitious cements.” Hall mentions nine different products, four of them “close to 100 percent recycled,” the others with varying amounts of recycled content.
One of the major materials they use, he says, is “granulated blast furnace slag,” which is used for a product not manufactured anywhere else on the West Coast. Yes, we asked, but no, it doesn’t come from Nucor, which uses a different type of process than the one creating what is used at Lafarge, slag that comes from Japan.
Their products are being well-utilized in projects around town, including the Seawall Replacement Project, says Hall, who is in his fourth year running the plant at 5400 W. Marginal Way SW.
One more question – has the forthcoming merger led to any changes yet? Nothing major, he says, but there’s a bit of irony – Lafarge bought this plant from Holcim, the firm it’s merging with, back in 1997.