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Akzo Nobel Chemicals

Akzo Chemical: Letter from Congressman LaFalce to EPA Administrator Carol Browner

November 1, 1996

Honorable Carol M. Browner
Environmental Protection Agency
401 M Street, SW
Washington, DC 20460

Dear Administrator Browner:

I am seeking your assistance in reversing EPA's decision to reject the Project XL application by Akzo Nobel Chemicals, Inc. (Akzo) in the Town of Newfane, New York. Akzo discharges industrial wastewaters into Newfane's publicly owned treatment works facility (POTW) which was constructed with funding from Akzo and designed with the capacity to treat the wastewater generated by Akzo. Without Akzo's discharge, the POTW may need physical modifications in order to operate efficiently due to underutilization. Akzo pays fees for use of the facility that cover most of its operating costs. In addition, Akzo has been a good corporate citizen and employs a substantial number of residents in and around Newfane. Akzo's success is of vital importance to my constituents.

Recent amendments to the OCPSF pretreatment water regulations could force Akzo Nobel to discontinue discharge of its industrial wastewaters to Newfane's POTW unless reasonable regulatory flexibility can be secured. EPA's rejection of the Project XL proposal which, according to local officials had the general support of EPA Region II officials, will force Akzo to utilize a substitute chemical in its manufacturing process that will not permit Akzo Nobel to be economically competitive. In the alternative, Akzo would be forced to build a prohibitively expensive and duplicative treatment facility that would deprive Newfane of the fees Akzo pays to utilize its POTW. Akzo's final alternative, and possibly only viable solution should this decision ont be reversed, would be to shut down its operations and lay off its workers.

Were EPA acting to protect the health of my constituents or the environment, I would agree with the rejection of this proposal. I have long supported reasonable environmental regulations and strongly opposed efforts to cut EPA funding and derail EPA enforcement actions in this past Congress. My environmental record speaks for itself. However, EPA's alternative solutions, while exacting severe economic hardship on my constituents, fail to provide any environmental benefit. Akzo could satisfy EPA's demand were it to construct its own treatment plant even though the new facility would not treat the discharge any better than the current facility.

Furthermore, the fact that Akzo is not currently polluting the environment. Testing by the municipality has confirmed that its biological process treats and removes the pthalates from the waste stream. Testing included the effluent, the sludge prior to composting and the recycled compost product. Ironically, if the Town did not recycle its sludge (composting), but rather land filled or incinerated it, removal credits would be available and the municipality as well as the industry would be exempt from further action. In a further twist of logic, EPA Washington has taken the position that, although they support Akzo's willingness to implement source reduction, the discharge to Lake Ontario would not be noticeably improved compared to what is currently being discharged from the POTW. EPA Washington is arguing that since there is no problem now, Akzo's project will not solve a problem or provide the requisite superior performance under Project XL. In effect, Akzo is being penalized because the POTW is functioning effectively.

EPA officials in Washington have questioned the transferability of the proposal. Akzo has presented EPA with an opportunity to fulfill Project XL's intended purpose by having a broad impact on many industries and POTWs nationwide regarding regulatory requirements for the management of wastewater effluent and composted sludge. EPA has not sufficiently explained to Newfane, Akzo or my office why this solution is any less transferable than other accepted Project XL proposals.

The Project XL program has been touted by the Administration as being an avenue through which rigid regulations that provide negligible benefits in specific situations could be given flexibility for the greater good of a community. Considering the lack of environmental harm, the hardship imposed on Newfane and the opportunity for a broad policy impact, it is evident that this situation is precisely the type that Project XL was intended to remedy.

Finally, Akzo applied for Project XL status last April. Although EPA officials were aware that the company would be officially in violation of the appliable regulations as of July, they failed to come to a decision on this matter until October. After such prolonged deliberation and Region II's apparent support, it is very disheartening that EPA officials in Washington have failed to come to a reasonable decision. In the strongest possible terms, I ask you to reverse this manifestly unjust and ill advised result.


John J. LaFalce
Member of Congress


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