FMC Corporation, Inc. Hazardous Waste Settlement
On October 16, 1998, settlement was reached with FMC Corporation, Inc. for numerous RCRA hazardous waste violations at its phosphorus production facility in Pocatello, Idaho. In the settlement, FMC has agreed to spend a total of approximately $170 million -- including the largest civil penalty ever obtained to date under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) of $11,864,800.
The most serious of violations involve mismanagement of ignitable and reactive phosphorus wastes in ponds. Storage of such hazardous wastes in ponds is prohibited by RCRA because of the potential threat to human health and the environment. The sediments in these ponds burn vigorously and persistently when exposed to the air, and a number of fires have been documented at these ponds in the past. The wastes in these ponds also generate phosphate and hydrogen cyanide, highly toxic gases that can cause serious health and environmental problems. FMC at times has reported elevated levels of phosphine around the ponds, and it is believed that migratory bird deaths in the area also may be attributable to phosphine poisoning.
In the settlement, FMC will close surface ponds previously used to store and manage hazardous ignitable and reactive phosphorus wastes. In addition, FMC will construct a $40 million waste treatment plant to deactivate the phosphorus bearing wastes in order to avoid the inherent threats posed by the handling of such hazardous materials. This treatment plant will be subject to interim status and permitting requirements under RCRA, which will include public notice and comment prior to EPA approval. FMC also will implement upgrades to its facility to meet RCRA secondary containment requirements for all pipes, tanks, and other units handling these types of wastes. FMC also will undertake a comprehensive environmental management system to ensure future compliance with the law. Costs associated with all the injunctive relief required under the settlement are expected to exceed $90 million.
FMC also has committed to over a dozen Supplemental Environmental Projects ("SEPs") with a capital cost of $63 million, which will significantly improve air quality in the Pocatello region through a reduction of approximately 436 tons of particulate matter per year in emissions of dust and soot at the facility. As a final SEP, FMC will conduct a $1.65 million public health assessment and education program to investigate the effects of contaminants generated by FMC on human health and the environment, particularly within nearby tribal lands.
Total injunctive relief costs of approximately $93 million, SEP costs of approximately $65 million, and a penalty of nearly $12 million will result in a total cost to FMC of approximately $170 million. The Consent Decree was entered on July 13, 1999.
Enforcement Alert: "Hazardous Waste Management Practices at Mineral Processing Facilities Under Scrutiny by U.S. EPA; EPA Clarifies 'Bevill Exclusion' Wastes and Establishes Disposal Standards" Volume 3, Number 10 (November 2000)(PDF, 48K, 4 pp)
For additional information, contact:
Associate Regional Counsel
Seattle, WA 98101