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Alcoa’s Intalco smelter agrees to reduce pollution emissions. Here’s what that means

Take a tour of the Intalco aluminum smelter on its’ 50th anniversary

Tour the Alcoa Intalco Works aluminum smelter west of Ferndale, Friday, Aug. 12, 2016. The smelter is celebrating its' 50th anniversary.
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Tour the Alcoa Intalco Works aluminum smelter west of Ferndale, Friday, Aug. 12, 2016. The smelter is celebrating its' 50th anniversary.

Alcoa’s aluminum smelter near Ferndale has agreed to a plan to install pollution equipment that will reduce sulfur dioxide releases.

Washington State’s Department of Ecology announced last week that Alcoa Intalco Works has agreed to put in a wet scrubber to reduce emissions of the gas, which is known for its sharp smell that can cause breathing and other health issues.

The cost of the scrubber installation project is estimated to be $15 million, and it is expected to be in place by the end of 2022, according to a news release from Alcoa.

As part of the agreement, Ecology is seeking public comments before the installation project can continue. Feedback can be submitted through Ecology’s online comment system through June 10.

The reason for this equipment is to address sulfur dioxide levels in the area west of Ferndale. Both Intalco and Ecology have spent years measuring the concentrations of sulfur dioxide in order to comply with updated federal air quality standards.

In its news release Ecology said it does not believe the levels found near Intalco pose a threat to residents of nearby communities.

“However, people living or working close to the plant may have been exposed to short-term levels that exceed federal standards meant to protect public health,” according to the news release.

In its news release, Alcoa pointed out that the conclusions were based on 17,500 hours of monitoring data. The monitoring station recorded only one instance where levels exceeded the short-term exposure threshold set by the Environmental Protection Agency. That threshold level was designed to protect someone who was exercising and had asthma, according to the EPA.

Installing this new equipment is not expected to impact production at the aluminum smelter, according to Alcoa. The facility currently employs 700 people and is the only one currently operating in Washington.

Details about the draft agreement can be found on Ecology’s website.

The date for the public comment period deadline was corrected on May 13.

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Dave Gallagher has covered the Whatcom County business community since 1998. Retail, real estate, jobs and port redevelopment are among the topics he covers.


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