Washington newsprint mill Inland Empire struggles with newspaper inks and PCBs in recycling process

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Washington newsprint mill Inland Empire struggles with newspaper inks and PCBs in recycling process

August 16, 2011 - 10:29
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SPOKANE, WA, Aug. 16, 2011 (The Spokesman-Review) -Yesterday's news becomes tomorrow's broadsheet at Inland Empire Paper Co., where the newsprint rolling off the paper machine contains 40 percent recycled fiber content.

But there's a dirty little downside to the recycling process. Ink from the old newspapers contains tiny amounts of PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls). The toxic compounds end up in the Millwood plant's treated wastewater, which gets discharged into the Spokane River.

It's a dilemma for Inland Empire Paper, a subsidiary of Cowles Co., which also owns The Spokesman-Review. The fiber in old newspapers, phone books and office paper gets recycled up to seven times at the plant, creating newsprint sold to customers as far away as Florida. But keeping old newspaper out of landfills puts more toxins into the river. PCBs weren't detected in the plant's treated wastewater until after 1991, when the recycling effort began.

The Spokesman-Review - PCBs still found in products - and river

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