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U.S. EPA, PROCTER & GAMBLE SETTLE AIR POLLUTION CASE FOR $381,000
Release Date: 4/1/1996
Contact Information: Bill Glenn, U.S. EPA, (415) 744-1589
(San Francisco)--The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) today announced that Procter & Gamble Manufacturing Co. has agreed to pay a $381,000 penalty to settle allegations that it was eight years late in installing proper air pollution control equipment to reduce methanol emissions at its Sacramento plant.
The settlement was filed concurrently with a civil complaint in U.S. District Court in Sacramento on Friday.
"When Procter & Gamble did install the proper control technology in 1991, methanol emissions were reduced by more than 95% -- from more than 2,500 pounds a day to less than 100. That's like taking 15,000 cars off the road," said David Howekamp, director of air and toxics for U.S. EPA's western regional office.
"Unfortunately, those years of excess emissions meant smoggier air for the people of the Sacramento area," said Howekamp. "While we don't believe the violations were intentional, it's important that companies be accountable for the instances when public health is not adequately protected."
An emissions test conducted in 1990 revealed that the facility underestimated its methanol emissions by more than 900,000 pounds a year. A 1983 modification of the plant that the company had expected to reduce emissions instead increased them by about 325,000 pounds per year.
Because Procter & Gamble believed its 1983 changes to the plant would not increase methanol emissions, it did not obtain a permit that would have required installation of the best available pollution control technology. Under rules designed to prevent further deterioration of air quality, an emissions increase of more than 250 pounds per day would have triggered such requirements, as well as the need to offset any net emissions increases with reductions elsewhere. In its complaint, U.S. EPA alleged that Procter & Gamble failed to meet those requirements from August 1983 until October 1991, when it installed wet scrubbing technology that cut emissions by about 928,000 pounds a year and allowed the facility to recover methanol for reuse. In addition, U.S. EPA alleged that Procter & Gamble failed to obtain a permit for the control equipment until July 1995, and failed to meet reporting requirements for two chemicals released from the facility -- methanol and glycol ethers -- in 1989.
In June 1994, U.S. EPA issued a notice of violation to the company for its earlier failure to install control technology and offset emissions, and for its failure to obtain a permit for the control equipment installed in October 1991.
Procter & Gamble's plant produces fatty alcohols from the methyl esters of coconut oil and palm kernel oil. This process, known as hydrogenation for alcohol, results in the airborne release of methanol, a volatile organic compound (VOC). VOCs react with nitrogen oxides and sunlight in the air to form ozone, the main ingredient in smog. Ground-level ozone causes health problems by damaging lung tissue and sensitizing the lungs to other irritants. Studies show that regular exposure to ozone at concentrations found in Sacramento and other heavily populated areas of California can significantly reduce lung function in normal, healthy people during periods of moderate exercise. People with asthma, the elderly, and children are especially at risk.
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