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Formosa reaches agreement of PVC plant complaints with EPA

Formosa Plastics’ Texas and Louisiana units will spend more than $10 million on pollution controls to address air, water, and hazardous-waste violations at two petrochemical plants in Point Comfort, TX, and Baton Rouge, LA—the eighth settlement in a series of PVC manufacturing enforcement cases going back to late 2003.

PlasticsToday Staff

October 1, 2009

3 Min Read
Formosa reaches agreement of PVC plant complaints with EPA

Formosa Plastics’ Texas and Louisiana units will spend more than $10 million on pollution controls to address air, water, and hazardous-waste violations at two petrochemical plants in Point Comfort, TX, and Baton Rouge, LA—the eighth settlement in a series of PVC manufacturing enforcement cases going back to late 2003. Steve Rice, manager of corporate communications with Formosa Plastics (Livingston, NJ), told PlasticsToday that its inspection occurred in the late 2003, early 2004 time period, adding that the fact it has taken this long to reach an agreement displays “just how complex some of these issues were.” In spite of the deal, Rice said Formosa hasn’t fully accepted all of the agency’s findings. “[Formosa] still disputes many, many of the claims and allegations,” Rice said, adding that the company believed a lengthy court case, even though it deemed it winnable, would be too costly.

The U.S. Dept. of Justice and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said Formosa agreed to pay a civil penalty of $2.8 million for infractions of 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). Rice said these monies will be paid out over the next several months and that the fines are in line with those imposed on other companies the EPA has reached agreements with.

Produced in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, the Justice Department release said the agreement includes a leak-detection and repair program, which could potentially reduce the annual volatile organic compound (VOC) air emissions, including vinyl chloride, from the two Formosa facilities by more than 6 million lb/yr.

Rice said Formosa was taken aback by the EPA’s potential emission reduction figure. “We’ve never seen that number before,” Rice said. “We have no idea where they got that.” For the concerned facilities, Formosa says the relevant figure is actually 16,000 lb/yr, with the EPA’s number four times larger than all of the Formosa’s emissions company wide.

Rice also noted that the $10 million would not represent any equipment investment, rather it’s the money the company will have to pay in man hours for additional monitoring that will actually go beyond the agency’s requirements. The leak rate the company is required to test to is 500 ppm, but Formosa will monitor down to 250 ppm.
 
During inspections, the EPA said it identified “extensive” Clean Air Act leak-detection and repair violations, including the failure to properly monitor leaking components, include chemical manufacturing equipment in its leak-detection and repair program, and repair leaking equipment in a timely manner. Inspectors also identified a variety of hazardous-waste violations at both facilities.

In a release, John C. Cruden, acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, said, “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.” A copy of the consent decree, which is subject to a 30-day comment period and final approval by the court, is available on the Justice Department website.

In its own release, Formosa said the EPA’s inspection revealed there was no evidence of any harm to human health or the environment, adding that the agency only recently issued the formal Notice of Complaint and many of the corrective actions were implemented immediately following inspections. Formosa also stated that this agreement will not interrupt facility operations or production. This resolution is part of a larger EPA effort that’s focused on the U.S. petroleum refining and petrochemical industries, according to Formosa, with about two-thirds of the other participants in the petrochemical industry having already signed agreements and the other third currently in negotiations with the agency. —[email protected]

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