Pacific Seafood issued $222,000 penalty for water pollution violations

UPDATED: Pacific Seafood response added to story. 


The Washington Department of Ecology issued a $222,000 penalty to the Pacific Seafood-Westport facility for repeatedly sending polluted wastewater into Half Moon Bay in Westport. 

The agency alleges that over the past two years, the facility violated its water quality permit 58 times.  

The facility processes seafood, mainly crab and shrimp, and while they are allowed to discharge wastewater under their permit, the facility is charged with violating every pollution limit in their permit. 

Ecology tells KXRO that this means they are polluting Half Moon Bay with water that is too acidic, has too much bacteria, and contains too much oil and grease. 

“It’s unacceptable that this facility is continuing to pollute Half Moon Bay after repeated citations and technical assistance,” said Vince McGowan, Ecology’s water quality program manager. “The majority of similar companies in the industry are able to meet permit requirements. The bottom line is that we need this facility to comply with their permit and stop polluting Half Moon Bay. This includes making any needed upgrades to their wastewater treatment system to fix the problem.” 

The company was said to have explored possible improvements to its facility, but has not yet made those investments, and Ecology says that the short-term fixes the business has implemented are insufficient.  

Ten of the violations Ecology cited in its penalty stemmed from the facility not conducting the required monitoring of its wastewater discharge. 

The other violations came from discharged wastewater that had too much organic matter, solids, acidity, oil and grease, and fecal coliform bacteria. That type of pollution can threaten aquatic life and human health. 

The facility has received penalties for similar issues in the past. One penalty came from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2020 along with a penalty from Ecology in 2022. Before issuing this most recent penalty, Ecology conducted two technical assistance inspections at the facility trying to help the facility get back into compliance.  

According to a response sent to KXRO from Pacific Seafood;

“Our company prides itself on our commitment to the environment and is a recognized leader in pollution reduction by the EPA. At our Westport facility alone, we’ve invested millions of dollars in technology and our robust team dedicated to Environment Health includes dedicated on-site staff in Westport. We are actively collaboratively with Ecology to retain multiple third-party engineers and technical professionals to modify and improve its wastewater treatment system. Pacific has spent thousands of additional dollars and invested in upgrades, all in accordance with the comprehensive engineering report and the schedule for improvements that Ecology reviewed.

“We are disheartened with Ecology’s approach to sensationalize information and intentionally mislead the public instead of working with our team. For example, their press release alleges we are ‘are polluting Half Moon Bay with water that is too acidic’ giving the impression that pH violations are ongoing and regular, when the truth is, there was only a single pH violation, which resulted from a broken pH meter.

“The regulations we must comply with are incredibly stringent, technical, and data intensive. We go above and beyond to protect our environment, but sometimes we might make a mistake. Unfortunately, it’s the mistakes that get headlines, not all of the times we’ve done the right thing. 

‘We will be filing an appeal.”

Pacific Seafood-Westport, LLC has 30 days to appeal the penalty to the Pollution Control Hearings Board

Water quality penalty payments to Ecology are placed into the state’s Coastal Protection Fund, which provides grants to public agencies and Tribes for water quality restoration projects.