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January 30, 2007

Goodrich to pay $510,000 for pollution

Factory west of Spokane discharged dangerous chemicals.

Goodrich Corp. will pay $510,000 in fines after a pollution investigation by state and local regulators found the company’s eight-year-old factory west of Spokane flushed dangerous chemicals into the sewers and failed to secure proper permits.

The fines are among the largest environmental penalties ever meted out in Eastern Washington by the state Department of Ecology and the Spokane County Air Pollution Control Authority and reflect concern that the plant has been operating outside water and air quality regulations since it opened in 1999.

As part of settlements with both agencies, Goodrich did not acknowledge any wrongdoing but did agree to change the way it manufactures high-grade carbon for aircraft brakes. It has until July to be compliant.

Goodrich’s pollution problems were discovered by chance, when two City of Spokane sewer workers doing normal inspections down a manhole found a “globby oily mess” that smelled very strongly of chemicals, said Ecology spokeswoman Jani Gilbert.

The workers alerted regulators of their find in November 2004.

After several visits, Ecology inspectors realized that Goodrich’s wastewater permits did not accurately reflect nor regulate how the plant operated and what kinds or amounts of hazardous wastes were being created and how the company was handling disposal. They found the factory was sending hazardous waste, including the carcinogen benzene, into the sewer system rather than to proper disposal.

“As regulators, we had incomplete information,” Gilbert said. “Turned out there were different numbers and amounts and compounds out there than we knew about.”

Ecology is unsure if people other than the city sewer workers had been exposed, including any of Goodrich’s 150 employees.

Goodrich officials declined to answer questions about the fines and deferred questions to spokeswoman Gail Warner. She issued a statement that read, in part: "Since its inception, management on site, as well as Goodrich environmental health and safety specialists have worked very closely with local and state agencies to ensure compliance with all appropriate regulations. Goodrich's goal across its many diverse sites around the globe is to maintain compliance and make a positive contribution to the communities in which our employees live and work."

Ecology decided to tell county air pollution officials at SCAPCA about the problems based on some initial observations.

SCAPCA checked air emissions and the company's manufacturing process and determined it also didn't have the proper air pollution permits and was emitting cyanide - albeit in amounts state law determines low enough not to threaten human health.

The problem was that Goodrich was feeding water containing chemicals into its incinerator. Again, regulators determined Goodrich provided erroneous numbers during its permitting application.

Had Goodrich submitted accurate information in the first place a permit would have been denied because the emissions would have classified the plant as a hazardous waste incinerator and subjected it to rigorous requirements including a through public yetting, said SCAPCA spokeswoman Lisa Woodard.

Some of the $249,000 fine issued by SCAPCA will be used to establish three new air monitoring sites in the county.

A portion of the $260,000 fine by Ecology will be used to pay for other environmental improvement projects."

This article was written by staff writer John Stucke and printed in the Spokesman Review, on January 30, 2007.

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