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Ashley Rodrigue / Eyewitness News
Email: arodrigue@wwltv.com | Twitter: @ashleyrwwl

BOGALUSA,La. -- Almost three years ago next month, black liquor was released into the Pearl River from the then-Temple Inland paper mill in Bogalusa. That was followed by a massive fish kill, which jeopardized the quality of life for hundreds of property owners who live along the waterway.

Now, after the company was ordered to pay $3 million in criminal penalties for violating federal environmental laws, 1,800 residents from Bogalusa to Slidell are receiving checks from a $15 million settlement for the spill.

'The main purpose behind this case, I guess, was primarily a property case and also to remind individuals like Temple Inland, and International Paper, that when events such as this occur, they will be held accountable,' said attorney Bill Arata.

Arata's law firm was one of eight that made up a committee, which cut the deal. He said the majority of his clients are pleased with the closure.

International Paper, which bought the mill less than a year after the spill, says it's glad to hear that claims are finally being paid to people affected by the accident, but it also wants to community to know that it is keeping its promise to improve this facility to prevent any similar accidents in the future.

In a statement to Eyewitness News, a spokesperson said, 'Renovations to the wastewater treatment facility are ongoing and ahead of schedule. The completed work has already increased retention time, increased the surface area of the aeration process and created the first of two designated settling zones. The construction sequence was laid out in such a way that the system has remained well within compliance of all DEQ permit limits. Through International Paper's leadership, our Bogalusa team has dramatically improved operations and environmental performance and we look forward to continuing to operate in the community as a great employer, neighbor and environmental steward.'

The community plans to hold the company to its word and looks forward to putting the incident in the past for good. Revisions on the mill are scheduled to be complete next year.

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