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Air Products to Pay $1.5M in Penalties for RCRA Violations

Air Products has agreed to pay nearly $1.5 million in civil penalties to resolve hazardous waste mismanagement violations at its Pasadena, Texas, chemical manufacturing facility, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Justice. The settlement resolves Air Products’ Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) violations in transferring spent acid to the Agrifos fertilizer manufacturing plant.

EPA says this case is related to the agency’s National Enforcement Initiative for Mining and Mineral Processing although Air Products does not conduct mining or mineral processing. However, the chemical company sent the spent acid stream to a facility that does — the Agrifos fertilizer plant, which is located on the adjacent property to the Air Products facility.

Mining and mineral processing facilities generate more toxic and hazardous waste than any other industrial sector, based on EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory. If not properly managed, wastes from these facilities may pose a high risk to human health and the environment, according to the agency.

Air Products has purchased acid product from Agrifos for many years, returning its spent acid to the fertilizer facility, according to the EPA. In April 2006, inspectors from EPA and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) observed that the return acid stream was a spent acid that was being used to make land-applied fertilizer.

EPA says Agrifos is not authorized to accept hazardous waste from other facilities.

As part of the settlement, Air Products has agreed to manage the spent acid on-site and not ship it to Agrifos or any other facility not authorized to accept it. The company is currently in compliance with the RCRA requirements specified in the settlement.

Air Products implemented modifications that will reduce the levels of contamination in the spent acid, and will build a $60-million regeneration plant that will stop the acid waste stream altogether. The company also has agreed to notify EPA and TCEQ in the event that the spent acid is either disposed of or sent off site.

Since 2003, EPA has been investigating 20 phosphoric acid facilities in seven states because of the high risk of releases of acidic wastewaters at these facilities, which can cause groundwater contamination and fish kills, according to the EPA.

One of the most recent investigations includes CF Industries’ hazardous waste violation. Earlier in August, CF Industries agreed to spend approximately $12 million to reduce and manage hazardous wastes generated at its Plant City, Fla. phosphoric acid and ammoniated fertilizer manufacturing facility.

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