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EPA Cites Occidental Chemical for 13 Environmental Violations

Release Date: 10/1/2003
Contact Information: David Sternberg, 215-814-5548

David Sternberg, 215-814-5548

PHILADELPHIA - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today issued administrative penalty and compliance orders to Occidental Chemical Corporation in Pottstown, Montgomery Co., Pa. for 13 environmental violations identified during a January 2003 multi-media inspection at the facility.

The complaint alleges violations of the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act, and the Emergency Preparedness and Community Right-To-Know Act.

In addition, the EPA ordered the company to take actions to protect human health and the environment from pollution risks which may result from any ongoing violations of the Clean Air and Clean Water acts.

The inspection which identified the violations was part of a new EPA mid-Atlantic enforcement approach that evaluates how pollutants move from one medium to another, such as from water to air, and the regulations that apply. This inspection process focuses first on the environmental impact of the production chemicals and byproducts, and then looks at the facility’s regulatory compliance with all regulations. EPA uses this approach to produce better, more protective, environmental results.

While the complaint does not identify a specific penalty amount, the statutory maximum penalty allowed in this case is $27,500 per day of each violation. The company has 30 days to respond to the complaint, and may request a hearing before an administrative law judge who will make a determination.

Today’s complaint alleges that Occidental Chemical violated the Clean Air Act by not meeting the requirements of its operating permit at the time of the inspection, failing to properly test for concentrations of vinyl chloride -- a known human carcinogen -- in wastewater, and allowing exposure of that wastewater to the atmosphere in excess of emissions standards.

The complaint also alleges that the company violated the Clean Water Act by exceeding its permitted flow limits; failing to appropriately collect and analyze samples; failing to show they were meeting effluent concentration standards for vinyl chloride and other volatile organic compounds; and failing to comply with reporting requirements.

The complaint further alleges that the company violated the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act by failing to maintain and operate the facility in such a way that minimizes the possibility of a fire, explosion, or release of hazardous waste to the environment. The complaint also alleges the facility failed to keep hazardous waste containers closed, and failed to properly determine and control the concentrations of volatile organic compounds, such as vinyl chloride, in various hazardous waste streams.

In addition, the complaint alleges that the company did not immediately notify federal, state and county agencies of vinyl chloride releases on May 27, 2002, as required by federal law under the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know act. Additionally, the complaint alleges the facility under-reported hydrochloric acid emissions in 1999, and vinyl chloride and ammonia emissions in 2001.