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WASHINGTON—DuPont and Lucite International Inc. have agreed to pay a $2 million civil penalty to settle Clean Air Act violations at a sulfuric acid plant in Belle, W. Va., the Justice Department, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the state of West Virginia announced today.
The sulfuric acid plant is located on a 100-acre chemical manufacturing complex along the Kanawha River. The plant is owned by Lucite and operated by DuPont. The companies will pay $1 million to the United States and $1 million to the state of West Virginia. Further, the companies chose on their own to shut down the sulfuric acid manufacturing unit of a larger chemical facility at the site and the settlement confirms this agreement. Under the settlement, the sulfuric acid unit is scheduled to shut down by April 1, 2010.
"This settlement is part of the U.S. government’s dedicated effort to bring all sulfuric acid manufacturers into compliance with the Clean Air Act," said John C. Cruden, Acting Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.
"The actions taken as part of this settlement will reduce emissions of air pollutants by more than 1,000 tons each year," said Catherine McCabe, Acting Assistant Administrator for the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. "Sulfur dioxide emissions can be harmful to children, the elderly and people with heart and lung conditions."
In a joint complaint, filed concurrently with the consent decree, the United States and West Virginia allege that the companies made modifications to their plant in 1996 without first obtaining pre-construction permits and installing required pollution control equipment. The Clean Air Act requires major sources of air pollution to obtain such permits before making changes that would result in a significant emissions increase of any pollutant.
The Belle sulfuric acid plant burns sulfuric acid sludge, which creates sulfur dioxide. Most of the sulfur dioxide is converted to sulfuric acid and recovered but a portion of the chemical is emitted to the atmosphere. In addition to sulfur dioxide, the plant also emits sulfuric acid mist, nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide.
Sulfur dioxide can have serious health effects on children, the elderly, and people with heart and lung conditions. Acid rain is also believed to leach nutrients from sensitive soils and damage forests. Sulfuric acid is widely used for ore processing, fertilizer manufacturing, oil refining, wastewater processing and chemical synthesis.
The settlement is part of an EPA initiative to improve compliance among industries that have the potential to cause significant amounts of air pollution, including the cement manufacturing, glass manufacturing, and acid production industries.
The consent decree, lodged today in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and approval by the federal court. A copy of the consent decree is available on the Department of Justice Web site at http://www.usdoj.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html.