Today, the Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a settlement with Dow Silicones Corporation (DSC), resolving alleged environmental violations at the company’s chemical manufacturing facility in Midland, Michigan, including alleged violations of the Clean Air Act; the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act; the Clean Water Act; the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act; and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act. The alleged violations relate to excess emissions of hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), unauthorized discharges of pollutants, inadequate management of hazardous waste, and untimely reporting of hazardous substance releases.
The consent decree requires DSC to undertake extensive measures that should result in estimated annual emission reductions of 218 tons of HAPs and 43.53 tons of VOCs, as well as estimated annual pollutant reductions of three tons of nitrogen and zinc. In addition, DSC will spend approximately $1.6 million on supplemental environmental projects, including lead abatement projects to protect children from lead-based paint hazards in or near Midland; donation of air monitoring equipment to local responders; and more frequent monitoring and improved repair and replacement procedures for equipment that contains HAPs. DSC will also be required to pay a penalty of $4.55 million.
“This settlement reflects our continued commitment to hold people accountable for violating the nation’s environmental laws,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Brightbill of the Environment and Natural Resources Division. “The Justice Department is pleased to have worked with our partners at EPA to secure this result, which means improved air and water quality for the people and communities of eastern Michigan.”
“Michigan companies that manufacture, process, and handle dangerous chemicals and substances have a legal and ethical responsibility to ensure that their activities do not pollute our air, our waters, or our ground,” said U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider for the Eastern District of Michigan. “The United States appreciates the fact that, under this settlement, Dow Silicones Corporation recognizes its responsibilities to both honor federal law and protect the environment.”
“Today’s settlement is one example of how EPA is committed to reducing exposure to hazardous air pollutants and other contaminants in communities across the country,” said EPA Region 5 Administrator Cathy Stepp.
The primary violations alleged in the United States’ complaint consist of DSC’s failure to monitor and repair VOC leaks from thousands of components and properly operate the facility’s thermal oxidizer, which is the facility’s primary HAPs control device, thereby resulting in excess emissions of HAPs; the failure to identify and characterize hazardous waste streams; and the failure to properly manage and monitor stormwater at the facility. Excess emissions of HAPs increase the possibility of exposure to pollutants that are known or expected to cause cancer or other serious health effects, as well as adverse environmental conditions. These health effects can include damage to the immune system, as well as neurological, reproductive (e.g., reduced fertility), developmental, respiratory, and other health problems. Additionally, the failure to properly manage and monitor stormwater may have led to the discharge of pollutants, such as hydrochloric acid, benzene, arsenic and heavy metals, harmful to aquatic species in the Lingle Drain and the Tittabawassee River.
The settlement also requires DSC to: implement a revised benzene sampling plan, a comprehensive leak detection and repair program for equipment, and a compliance plan to remedy all Clean Air Act violations identified through a voluntary audit performed by DSC; implement specified measures to control vent streams that contain HAPs and improve the operation of air pollution control equipment; identify and characterize all hazardous waste streams; implement adequate secondary containment for tanks; evaluate and improve the management and monitoring of stormwater at the facility and update the facility’s Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan; and implement a revised hazardous substance release reporting policy and training procedures.
The consent decree, lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and approval by the federal court. It is available on the Justice Department website at www.usdoj.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html.
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Author: June 25, 2019