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Phosphorus manufacturer sentenced to pay $18M in criminal fines and restitution, clean up site

Release Date: 4/29/2004
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      Denver - Chief U.S. District Court Judge Donald W. Molloy (D-Mont) today sentenced Rhodia Inc. to pay a total of $18 million in criminal fines and restitution as a result of its guilty pleas previously entered on January 14, 2004, to two felony violations of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).

      Specifically, Rhodia was ordered to pay a $16.2 million fine and to make restitution to the State of Montana in the amount of $1.8 million. Rhodia is also required to perform remediation of all hazardous wastes at the Silver Bow Plant. The remediation plan must be in accordance with orders by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under RCRA and requires EPA approval. Rhodia is subject to five years probation and the probation period could be extended if remediation takes longer than five years.
      The criminal fine is the largest ever paid for criminal environmental violations in the District of Montana, and is the second largest ever paid for hazardous waste crimes in the U.S.
The Silver Bow Plant, closed in 1997, manufactured elemental phosphorus from at least 1986 until 1996. Elemental phosphorus was used by other manufacturers to produce fertilizer, pesticides and food grade phosphoric acid. Elemental phosphorus waste, which is considered hazardous under RCRA, poses a serious threat to public health and the environment because it can spontaneously ignite when exposed to air.

EPA Regional Administrator Robert E. Roberts said, “The substantial fine and restitution ordered by Judge Molloy today comes after an outstanding joint effort between EPA, DOJ and the State of Montana. This sentence should send a clear and strong message to companies handling hazardous waste that if they violate laws designed to protect public health and the environment, they will be prosecuted and held accountable for their illegal activities. The site clean-up ordered by EPA and made a part of the company’s probation will ensure a cleaner environment for the citizens of Montana.”
    Rhodia previously admitted that from January 1999 until August 2000, after the Silver Bow Plant was closed, it illegally stored elemental phosphorus sludge, a hazardous waste, at the site in a large concrete tank known as a 100-foot clarifier. Rhodia also admitted that it illegally stored carbon brick and precipitator dust contaminated with elemental phosphorus waste. The carbon brick and precipitator dust had been discarded from a furnace at the site. The illegal activity was discovered in May 2000, when
    EPA and Montana Department of Environmental Quality executed a search warrant at the Silver Bow Plant.