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WASHINGTON – Formosa Plastics Corp., Texas, and Formosa Plastics Corp., Louisiana, will spend more than $10 million on pollution controls to address air, water, and hazardous waste violations at two petrochemical plants in Point Comfort, Texas, and Baton Rouge, La., the Justice Department and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today.
The companies also have agreed to pay a civil penalty of $2.8 million to resolve violations under the Clean Air Act (CAA), Clean Water Act (CWA), Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA).
Under the agreement lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, both the Texas and Louisiana facilities will implement a comprehensive CAA enhanced leak detection and repair program, which goes beyond regulatory requirements by requiring more stringent leak definitions, more frequent monitoring and monitoring and repair of additional chemical manufacturing equipment. The leak prevention practices agreed to in the settlement include an innovative program to replace valves with new “low leak” valve technology, which will significantly reduce the likelihood of future leaks of air pollutants. The enhanced program also includes requirements for periodic audits of the companies’ leak prevention practices to ensure compliance going forward.
The enhanced leak detection and repair program will potentially reduce the annual volatile organic compound (VOC) air emissions from the two Formosa facilities by approximately 6,570,000 pounds per year of VOCs, including hazardous air pollutants such as vinyl chloride.
According to EPA, VOCs can contribute to respiratory disorders such as asthma and reduced lung capacity. They can also cause damage to ecosystems and reduce visibility.
The Formosa facilities also will undertake an innovative enhanced vinyl chloride leak detection and elimination program designed to improve the companies’ systems for identifying and addressing leaks of vinyl chloride.
Most vinyl chloride is used to make polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic and vinyl products. Vinyl chloride is an odorless gas; it is an ozone precursor and known carcinogen that is also linked to neurological disorders.
In addition, the settlement requires both facilities to undertake analyses to prevent future wastewater discharge violations. The Formosa Texas facility will undertake a comprehensive review of its compliance with EPCRA’s toxic release reporting requirements, and the Formosa Louisiana facility will cease improper disposal of certain listed hazardous wastes.
This will be the eighth settlement in a series of cases developed as part of EPA’s enforcement effort to ensure environmental compliance in the PVC manufacturing industry. Since the first PVC civil case was concluded in 2004, EPA has addressed noncompliance across media (air, water, waste) at 13 PVC manufacturing facilities, and will reduce vinyl chloride emissions by a total of 152,000 pounds per year.
“Today’s settlement requires Formosa to institute a comprehensive enhanced leak detection program designed to address serious violations of environmental regulations,” said John C. Cruden, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “We are pleased that Formosa worked cooperatively with DOJ and EPA to address the violations at issue and agreed to institute innovative programs that will result in significant pollution reductions.”
“This case shows that when a company fails to control leaks of hazardous pollutants, EPA will vigorously enforce the law,” said EPA Acting Regional Administrator Lawrence E. Starfield. “Pollution controls put in place as a result of this more than $10 million settlement will benefit the people living nearby.”
The case was initiated as a result of inspections conducted by EPA’s National Enforcement Investigations Center at Formosa’s Point Comfort and Baton Rouge facilities. During the inspections, EPA identified extensive Clean Air Act leak detection and repair violations, including failing to properly monitor leaking components, failing to include chemical manufacturing equipment in its leak detection and repair program, and failing to timely repair leaking equipment. Inspectors also identified a variety of hazardous waste violations at both facilities.
In addition, the inspectors found that Formosa had violated wastewater discharge limits under its CWA permits, and, at the Texas facility, had failed to comply with the CAA benzene waste operations requirements and to submit correct toxic release reporting information to EPA.
The consent decree is subject to a 30-day comment period and final approval by the court. A copy of the consent decree is available on the Justice Department Web site at http://www.usdoj.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html.