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Ecology fines Intalco for air pollution at Ferndale aluminum smelter

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.

Washington state officials fined Alcoa’s Intalco Works aluminum smelter $27,500 for exceeding its air permit several times over the past two years, it was announced Friday.

“The Ferndale facility exceeded its air permit 11 different times in 2017 and 2018,” state Department of Ecology communications official Ty Keltner said in a press release. “As a result, more fluoride and particulate matter was put into the air and surrounding environment.”

Ecology said Intalco’s fluoride and particulate emissions were above the legal limits but weren’t hazardous to people.

Pollution was linked to problems in the smelter’s manufacturing as newly hired employees were trained in 2016, Keltner said in the statement. The company had an influx of new employees after the facility nearly shut down that summer.

“Since the violations, Intalco has made progress,” Keltner said. “The facility’s emissions returned to compliance with the fluoride limits in May 2018, although it is still taking steps to come into compliance with its particulate emissions limits.”

Intalco spokeswoman Laura McKinney said they proactively reported these compliance matters to the Department of Ecology when they occurred.

“We have been working to make sure they do not reoccur,” McKinney said in an email, adding that they are committed to operating with excellence and maintaining a good relationship with the community.

Intalco has 30 days to appeal the fine to the state’s Pollution Control Hearings Board. McKinney said Intalco does not plan on appealing the penalty.

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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.


Robert Mittendorf covers civic issues, weather, traffic and how people are coping with the high cost of housing for The Bellingham Herald. A journalist since 1984, he’s also a volunteer firefighter for South Whatcom Fire Authority.


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