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Ferndale company fined nearly $1 million for environmental violations at Cherry Point

By Robert Mittendorf and Jack Belcher, The Bellingham Herald
Published: December 7, 2023, 7:38am

BELLINGHAM — The owners of a biodiesel refinery west of Ferndale are being fined nearly $1 million in penalties for allowing toxic waste to accumulate at the site in the Cherry Point industrial area, the state Department of Ecology said Tuesday in a news release.

Jagroop S. Gill and Campbell Land Corp. own the property where Treoil Industries operated and was the focus of two federal cleanups, Ecology said.

“Treoil’s poor management of dangerous waste on its property has threatened human health and the environment for years,” said Katrina Lassiter, Ecology’s Hazardous Waste and Toxics Reduction program manager.

“Ecology made multiple attempts to work with Mr. Gill between 2014 and 2022 to bring the property into compliance with state laws, but he did not take advantage of these opportunities,” Lassiter said in a statement.

Hundreds of thousands of gallons of liquid waste, tons of solid waste and a number of dangerous waste containers were cleaned up from the site by government workers at the Treoil site, a 34-acre privately-owned parcel in Whatcom County that has been used since the 1980s, Ecology said.

Ecology issued a fine of $900,000, according to the statement.

The government cleanup of the site cost $4.3 million.

When inspectors visited the site in 2014, they confirmed the location was hazardous and instructed Treoil to clean up the site. Treoil appealed this order in court but lost in 2016.

Inspectors visited again a year later, and found that not only had Treoil not done what as instructed, but that the situation had actually gotten worse, “posing and imminent threat to the environment,” Ecology said.

A federal emergency response team was brought in to clean up Treoil’s mess in 2017, removing 93,000 gallons of a mixture of tall oil (resin) and derivative wastes and 275 tons of contaminated soil, sludge and debris among other hazardous materials, according to Ecology.

After this EPA cleanup, the owner, Gill, closed the property to Ecology and the EPA. Ecology inspectors had to get court-ordered access in 2022 to visit the property. When they accessed the site, they found that conditions had become even worse than they were before the cleanup.

In 2022, 4,800 gallons of pumpable oily material, 3,316 tons of solidified material, 1,890 gallons of corrosive liquids, Eight cubic yards of solidified hazardous materials, 97,400 gallons of oily liquid from secondary containment and 18,000 gallons of hazardous liquid was removed by the EPA.

The site remains open today and is being monitored by ecology programs.

Treoil processed tree resin into an alternative fuel.

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