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Department of Justice
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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Two Manufacturers Agree to Settle Clean Air Act Claims Resulting from Explosions at Plants in Kentucky and Mississippi

WASHINGTON—Two manufacturing companies, in separate settlements, have agreed to pay civil penalties and take corrective measures to settle Clean Air Act violations resulting from explosions at two plants in 2002 and 2003 in Louisville, Ky., and Pascagoula, Miss., the Justice Department and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today.

D. D. Williamson and Co. and First Chemical Corp. have agreed in separate settlements to pay a combined total of $1,331,000 in civil penalties and to implement corrective measures to settle Clean Air Act claims resulting from a 2003 explosion at D.D. Williamson’s Kentucky plant and a 2002 explosion at First Chemical’s Mississippi plant.

"Today’s settlements are a forceful reminder to the regulated community that the failure to adhere to the Clean Air Act’s general duty obligations can lead to serious, even deadly, accidents and harm to the environment," said John C. Cruden, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environmental and Natural Resources Division. "Today’s settlements also demonstrate the Justice Department’s continuing efforts to ensure the public safety, and protection of the environment, by holding industry to the duty to maintain safe facilities."

"This case demonstrates that a failure to fulfill obligations under the law can have serious consequences," said Stan Meiburg, EPA Acting Regional Administrator in Atlanta. "EPA will continue to aggressively pursue those who fail to comply with the laws that protect our environment, and we will hold them accountable."

The complaints filed today against both companies allege that they failed to adhere to the Clean Air Act’s general duty of care provision. The general duty of care requirement obligates companies handling extremely hazardous substances to take steps to identify and reduce the risks associated with the use of these chemicals, including providing layers of protection on their equipment, such as pressure relief valves, automatic shut-off valves or temperature alarms; ensuring the mechanical integrity of their equipment and piping; and properly training employees to monitor and address emergencies.

D.D. Williamson

The complaint filed against D.D. Williamson, a caramel coloring manufacturer, alleges the company failed to comply with the Clean Air Act and its regulations. The 2003 incident at the plant resulted in the death of one employee and the release of an ammonia cloud in a nearby residential neighborhood. Specifically, the complaint alleges that D.D. Williamson failed to comply with the general duty of care imposed on users of extremely hazardous substances and also failed to comply with the chemical accident prevention provisions also known as the risk management program. The risk management program outlines specific safety management requirements for certain extremely hazardous substances, such as ammonia, that are used in amounts over specific limits.

D.D. Williamson, under the consent decree lodged today with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky, has agreed to pay $600,000 in civil penalties to be divided equally between the United States and the Louisville Metro Air Pollution Control District, which enforces the risk management program regulations. After the 2003 explosion, D.D. Williamson took steps to improve its Louisville plant by building a new facility that housed its manufacturing operations. Under the consent decree,D.D. Williamson is required touse an outside engineering consultant to complete a full hazard operability study of its manufacturing operations and implement the study’s recommendations, and totrain its managers in process-hazard assessment techniques.

First Chemical

The complaint filed against First Chemical, which makes extremely hazardous mononitrotoluene (MNT), asserts the company similarly failed to meet the general duty requirement, leading to the 2002 explosion that resulted in the release of over 1,200 pounds of MNT into the air.

First Chemical, under the consent decree lodged today with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, has agreedto pay the United States $731,000 in civil penalties, to complete an ongoing comprehensive hazard analysis of its MNT process and to implement all recommendations resulting from the analysis.

The consent decrees lodged today are each subject to a 30-day public comment period and to the approval of the U.S. District Court where each is filed. Copies of the consent decrees are available on the Department of Justice Web site at: http://www.usdoj.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html.

Press Release Number: 
Updated September 15, 2014