It may seem odd to hear about thousands of brook, brown and rainbow trout living in a paper mill, but it is certainly no fish tale in the traditional sense.
Located near Pennsylvania’s Allegheny forest on the headwaters of the scenic Clarion River, Domtar’s Johnsonburg mill boasts a long and rich history of papermaking — and more recently — of raising fish to help support local rivers.
The filtration building was originally erected in the early 1900s and has gone through significant renovations. Volunteers even built two raceways — 88 feet long, 4 feet wide — that sit above the floor and allow growing fingerlings to swim and flop about.
When the fish grow to an appropriate size, they are released into local waterways. In fact, 10,000 fish are released annually, and they’ve developed quite a reputation.
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Working with the commission and state regulators, Domtar works to meet stringent aquaculture standards. In fact, the cooperative nursery has received awards from the state for its success.
Zelehoski, who retired earlier this year, added: “This is a fun, unique program that is enjoyable for Domtar employees. And we’re doing our small part to help improve our community and the environment.”
Today, fish hatcheries are noted for their contributions to repopulating endangered fish, providing research on disease, restoring deteriorating habitats, and providing recreational fishing opportunities.
Charles DeWitt, quality and technical manager at Johnsonburg Mill, said the nursery is also a highlight for visitors to the mill and helps open conversations about Domtar’s commitment to sustainability and the surrounding mill communities.
“This is a program that our employees take pride in,” DeWitt said. “People in the community enjoy it. And the program sheds a light on the broad range of work Domtar does to support sustainability and our communities.”