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EPA fines Arizona fertilizer company $40,000 for Clean Air Act violations

Release Date: 9/8/2004
Contact Information: Wendy L. Chavez, 415-947-4248,

SAN FRANCISCO -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency fined an Arizona fertilizer company $40,000 for Clean Air Act violations at its nitric acid facility near Benson, Ariz.

Apache Nitrogen Products, Inc. emitted high levels of nitrogen oxide during frequent startups at two of its units between 1999 and 2002.

The facility's nitrogen oxide emission's during plant startup were often more than 1,000 parts per million. Normal operation emissions are typically less than 200 parts per million. Facilities subject to the federal New Source Performance standards are required to minimize emissions at all times, including plant startups.

The EPA discovered the violations after the community complained to regulatory agencies that highly visible plumes were coming from the facility when the units were starting up.

"Today's action has a very real impact on the surrounding neighborhood and the environment," said Deborah Jordan, the EPA's Air Division director for the Pacific Southwest region. "Apache Nitrogen must now properly operate and maintain a device that controls nitrogen oxide during startups at its facility."

Apache Nitrogen installed an additional nitrogen oxide control device in early 2001 to control emissions during startup after the EPA issued a finding of violation in September 2000. The new controls typically bring nitrogen oxide concentrations down to 200 parts per million or less during plant startup.

The consent decree was filed with the District court of Arizona on Sept. 7. Under the consent decree, the company must continue to operate the new control device during plant startup, provide employee training and maintain the plans in an area accessible to employees. The EPA also increased the company's reporting requirements to better monitor emissions during startup and shutdown. All of the requirements will be included in the plant's operating permit.

Nitrogen oxides react in the atmosphere to form several pollutants that are detrimental to human health. These include fine particles (PM-2.5), ozone, and nitrogen dioxide. Reducing fine particle concentrations alone will reduce over 15,000 of excess deaths due to pollution in the United States annually.

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