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Reference News Release: FMC Corporation, Inc

Release Date: 10/16/98
Contact Information: 


WASHINGTON, D.C.--The Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency today announced that FMC Corporation, Inc. has agreed to spend a total of approximately $170 million -- including the largest civil penalty ever obtained under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) of $11,864,800 -- to settle charges that it repeatedly violated the hazardous waste law at its phosphorus production facility in Pocatello, Idaho.

The government’s claims against FMC include numerous RCRA violations, the most serious of which 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 phosphine 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.

“Everyone managing hazardous waste should be on notice that the federal government will strongly enforce the nation’s laws to ensure the safe operation of all facilities to protect public health and our environment,” EPA Administrator Carol M. Browner. “The people of Pocatello deserve the clean, healthy air and water this settlement will ensure.”

“FMC for many years operated its hazardous waste ponds in disregard of the law and the people who live in and around Pocatello, Idaho, including members of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribe. The people of this community deserve better than that,” said Lois J. Schiffer, Assistant Attorney General for Environment and Natural Resources. “That’s why today’s announcement is so important. It means cleaner air, cleaner water and healthier communities in the Pocatello region. It also puts industry on notice that the federal government will not tolerate illegal handling of hazardous waste.”

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 is one of the world’s leading producers of chemicals and machinery for industry, government and agriculture. With sales of $4.5 billion to over 100 countries, the company operates 115 manufacturing facilities and mines in 24 countries. FMC’s Idaho facility is the world's largest producer of elemental phosphorus, which is used in detergents, beverages, foods, synthetic lubricants, and pesticides, and is located on privately owned land within the Shoshone-Bannock Tribe's Fort Hall Indian reservation. Operating at the present site since 1949, FMC processes about 1.4 million tons of shale ore per year, which produces about 250 million pounds of elemental phosphorus a year. The bulk of the wastes generated from these processes are hazardous wastes regulated under RCRA.

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.

EPA Regional Administrator for Region 10, Chuck Clark, said, “The injunctive relief required under the settlement is sorely needed, both to bring the facility into RCRA compliance, and to protect the tribal members and surrounding community.”

"I applaud this settlement as one of the most significant environmental results in our state," said Betty Richardson, U.S. Attorney for the District of Idaho. "We have major industries which rely upon extraction and use of natural resources in Idaho. The message to timber, mining, ranching the manufacturing companies is that they must comply with environmental laws. I commend FMC's decision to face up to their violations and commit to a more environmentally responsible future."