Statement From Tribal Council: Good riddance, WestRock

Council Statement Graphic

Originally posted: 09/07/2023

For almost a century, the WestRock paper mill belched polluted air and water into our ancestral homelands, putting everyone’s health at risk and contaminating our land while its owners happily raked in profits.

Believe us: We’re more than happy to see this blight on our land go. WestRock is just one of many destructive industries put in the Port of Tacoma over a hundred years, another effort to ruin what was once pristine and destroy our way of life and threaten everyone who lived around it.

We do recognize the loss of jobs and expect WestRock will live up to its word in helping its employees find other work.  We also thank the work of Andrea Reay and the Tacoma Pierce County Chamber of Commerce for their efforts to help these workers find alternative employment.

As far as the polluting paper mill goes, though: Good riddance. The Tribe has fiercely advocated with state agencies to force the company to finally update its decades of old studies with new science disclosing the company’s impacts on the marine environment from the poisons they released into the air and water. The Tribe tried tirelessly to get the U.S. to address West Rock’s entrainment of fish, including endangered species of salmon, in its massive cooling water intake in Commencement Bay.

Unfortunately, WestRock will continue to affect our environment for centuries. The plant spewed dioxins and furans into the environment. They’re toxic chemicals that can build up in animal tissue and wreak havoc with hormones and immune systems. WestRock is walking away, “gifting” our home with a contaminated area that will be a nuisance for everyone in Tacoma for generations to come.

For decades, WestRock has placed our homelands and people’s health behind profits. Be warned: We won’t stand by and let it happen again.