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FMC ordered to reduce levels of dangerous gases from former waste pond

Release Date: 12/14/2006
Contact Information: Susan Skinner, (208) 478-1680, Greg Weigel, (208) 378-5773, Tony Brown, (206) 553-1203,

(Pocatello, Idaho - Dec. 14, 2006) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued an enforcement order to FMC Idaho, LLC (FMC) to install a gas treatment system to reduce phosphine and other gases to safe levels at Pond 16S at FMC’s closed facility near Pocatello, Idaho. This interim action is needed to reduce potential risks to human health and the environment from the build up of gases beneath the Pond’s cap.

Phosphine gas and hydrogen sulfide gas have been measured at levels of concern at the temperature monitoring ports located on top of the Pond 16S cap. EPA conducted air sampling the week of Thanksgiving and found elevated concentrations of phosphine gas and hydrogen sulfide that could endanger onsite FMC personnel, workers and visitors. The order requires FMC to identify and characterize any other gases that may need treatment and requires ambient air monitoring in the vicinity of the closed pond.

“EPA issued this order to ensure that FMC addresses the gas build up at Pond 16S as quickly as possible,” said Lori Cohen, Associate Director of the Office of Environmental Cleanup in EPA’s Seattle Office. “EPA will provide oversight of the cleanup activity and is coordinating this oversight work with the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes and the State of Idaho Department of Environmental Quality.”

Phosphine gas when inhaled may affect cardiovascular and respiratory systems. High levels of phosphine gas may also ignite spontaneously upon contact with air creating phosphorus pentoxide, a severe respiratory tract irritant.

Hydrogen sulfide is a highly toxic and flammable gas that is characterized by the odor of rotten eggs. Exposure to even low concentrations of hydrogen sulfide may cause irritation to the eyes, nose and throat, and may cause difficulty in breathing for asthmatics.

The FMC site is located in Southeastern Idaho on Highway 30 in Power County, approximately 2.5 miles northwest of Pocatello, Idaho. The site was used to manufacture elemental phosphorus from phosphate ore from the late 1940’s until December 2001. This site is part of the Eastern Michaud Flats Superfund site that was listed on the National Priorities List of the nation’s most contaminated sites in 1990. Various surface impoundments, including Pond 16S, were used to manage process wastewater containing elemental phosphorus. Since the plant closure at the end of 2001, FMC has dismantled and removed the manufacturing plant.

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