Fertilizer company agrees to pay $1.8 million penalty
Dec. 8, 2011
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) made a major announcement that Agrifos, a former phosphoric acid and phosphate fertilizer producer, has agreed to pay a $1.8 million dollar penalty and conduct an environmental project to resolve alleged violations of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and the Clean Air Act. Violations include processing and disposing of hazardous wastewater without a permit and the improper routing of effluent from a scrubber through a cooling tower. The settlement will protect public health and the environment by reducing possible releases of hazardous wastewater into area waterways. Agrifos currently produces sulfuric acid and ammonium sulfate fertilizers.
"EPA is committed to protecting the public from releases of hazardous wastewater at phosphoric acid plants,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “Today’s settlement will significantly reduce the amount of contaminated runoff flowing from the Agrifos facility into local waterways, including the Houston Ship Channel.”
Under the agreement, Agrifos will spend $600,000 to implement a supplemental environmental project. The project involves the construction of a stormwater collection and containment barrier around its fertilizer production unit to eliminate or minimize impact on the environment. The containment structure will contain all spills and leaks from the fertilizer production unit and collect contaminated stormwater runoff from wet weather events for reuse in the production process. Based on the average rainfall at the facility, the containment barrier is expected to capture more than one million gallons of contaminated stormwater annually for reuse.
"When a company fails to control pollution, the EPA will vigorously enforce our environmental laws,” said EPA Regional Administrator Al Armendariz. “This case not only brings about penalties but also requires corrective action to prevent reoccurrence that would threaten our state's waterways.”
There have been four enforcement actions related to the Agrifos site in the last three years. In September 2010, Agrifos paid a $535,206 civil penalty to EPA for Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know (EPCRA), Superfund, and Clean Air Act violations at its facility. In November 2010, a settlement for $1.485 million was reached with Air Products, an adjacent chemical facility, to resolve violations which included the exchange of contaminated waste acid from Air Products to Agrifos. In September 2010, a settlement with ExxonMobil requires ExxonMobil to conduct extensive closure and cleanup work on the phosphogypsum stacks system at the Agrifos facility, which was previously owned by ExxonMobil. ExxonMobil also agreed to pay a $100,000 civil penalty. And, in September of 2008, RCRA and Superfund orders were issued to ExxonMobil and Agrifos to address the release of contaminated wastewater from the gypsum stacks at the Agrifos site into the Houston Ship Channel.
The settlement is part of EPA’s enforcement initiative to reduce pollution from mineral processing operations. EPA has focused on ensuring compliance in the phosphoric acid industry because of the high risk of releases of acidic wastewaters at these facilities.
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