A Superior Court judge approved a settlement Wednesday requiring Georgia-Pacific Corp. to pay a state record fine of $637,000 for alleged water- and air-pollution violations dating back to 1986.
The civil fine against Georgia-Pacific, which became Maine’s largest landowner when it recently assumed the property holdings of takeover target Great Northern Nekoosa Corp., is the largest ever for violating Maine environmental laws, the Department of Environmental Protection said.
In the settlement approved by Superior Court Justice Morton Brody, the company agreed to make improvements that will prevent the kinds of air and water pollution violations that prompted the state’s complaints.
Georgia-Pacific, which operates a mill in the eastern Maine town of Woodland, also agreed to build fish passages at two of its dams on the St. Croix River, which will allow fish to migrate down the river on the Maine-Canadian border without getting caught in turbines.
Maine Attorney General James E. Tierney, who described the violations as “significant,” told a news conference he hoped that the settlement will end a series of environmental problems at the mill.
The company admitted only some of the violations, and said it entered into the agreement although it remained unconvinced that all the allegations were true.
“Given the magnitude of our current commitment to Maine, we believe it is in the best interests of both Georgia-Pacific and the state of Maine to put the past behind us and begin to establish a clean slate in which to renew our commitment to environmental quality in Maine,” the general manager of the Woodland mill, Jerry L. Robinson, said in a statement released through Georgia-Pacific’s Atlanta headquarters.
Robinson said the company has completed a new $80-million recovery boiler to eliminate the air-emission problems. In response to the water-pollution complaints, the company agreed to reroute sanitary waste to its main system, which treats it more effectively, company officials said.