Columbia Pulp Mill making huge impact on small community - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Columbia Pulp Mill making huge impact on small community

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DAYTON, WA - A huge impact on a small community; that's what supporters are saying about a new pulp mill just outside of Dayton.

Columbia Pulp is going to be the first pulp mill in all of North America to use straw instead of trees, which means more sustainable paper products like paper towels, toilet paper and paper to write on.

We spoke with Mark Lewis, the man who developed the eco-friendly technology at Columbia Pulp. He said most pulp mills, like the Walulla Mill use a cooking process, which is why you can smell the sulfur in the air when you drive by. However, Columbia Pulp is doing it differently. They won't release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere like other mills by minimizing their chemical use and lowering their water consumption.       

Lewis said the pulp and paper mill industry can have a reputation of not being environmentally friendly, but this project is taking a step to change that way of thinking.

"I don't want to be too cliché but this is the epitome of think globally act locally," said Lewis. "People, planet, profit. Yes, this is a production facility, yes, this facility will make money, but it also gives money back to the farmers for their straw. It's 100 direct jobs and three to 400 associated jobs with that. It's a great environmental impact, a social impact, and it's going to be a fun ride."

The mill is expected to bring in $70 million to the local economy every year. Columbia Pulp is scheduled to be finished by fall of 2018.

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