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Luke Mill Will Pay Fine For North Branch Polluting Incident

April 28th, 2016 by WCBC Radio

The Cumberland Times News reports Verso Corporation has agreed to pay a fine for polluting the North Branch of the Potomac River with synthetic latex in September, according to Jay Apperson, spokesman for the Maryland Department of the Environment. The $10,000 fine was assessed after an MDE crew investigated discoloration in the river on Sept. 24 and traced the pollution back to the Upper Potomac River Commission's wastewater treatment plant at Westernport. Almost 10,000 gallons of synthetic latex that had leaked from a storage tank at the Luke Paper Mill traveled through a drainage system to the treatment plant and then into the river.

Apperson told the Times-News earlier this year that Verso had complied with agency requests intended to reduce the chance of similar mishaps in the future.

Also, a switch was installed to detect an open drain valve such as the one left open that allowed the synthetic latex material to escape, according to Apperson.

In addition, Verso will install monitors by July 1 into its plant sewer system that will provide instant turbidity readings. Such monitors would have made operators aware of a problem had they been in place in September.

Following the leak, some downstream water users such as Paw Paw, W.Va., closed intake valves until the discolored water flowed past.

Other users, such as Hagerstown, significantly ramped up treatment processes to purify drinking water.

The river pollution was later determined to pose no allergy threat to people sensitive to natural rubber.

The compound, styrene-butadiene, is not defined as a hazardous chemical under federal workplace regulations, according to The Associated Press. Both styrene and butadiene have been linked to an increased risk of certain cancers in work areas with high exposure, according to a study published in the December 2005 issue of the journal Occupational & Environmental Medicine.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources did not find any evidence of a fish kill.

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