Proposed Settlement with United States and Major Fertilizer Producer will Reduce Acidic Wastewater Generation and Enhance Phosphate Recovery

The U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced a settlement with J.R. Simplot Company and its subsidiary, Simplot Phosphates LLC (Simplot), involving Simplot’s Rock Springs, Wyoming, manufacturing facility.

 This settlement resolves allegations under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) at the facility, including that Simplot failed to properly identify and manage certain waste streams as hazardous wastes.  The settlement requires Simplot to implement process modifications designed to enable greater recovery and reuse of phosphate, a valuable resource.  The settlement also requires Simplot to ensure that financial resources will be available when the time comes for environmentally sound closure of the facility. 

Simplot’s Rock Springs facility manufactures phosphate products for agriculture and industry, including phosphoric acid and phosphate fertilizer, through processes that generate large quantities of acidic wastewater and a solid material called phosphogypsum.  The phosphogypsum is deposited in a large pile known as a gypstack, and acidic wastewater is also routed to the gypstack.  The gypstack at the Wyoming facility is fully lined and has a capacity to hold several billion gallons of acidic wastewater. 

This settlement also resolves alleged violations of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) for Simplot’s failure to report certain quantities of toxic chemicals in accordance with EPCRA standards. 

Under the settlement, Simplot agrees to implement specific waste management measures valued at nearly $20 million.  Significantly, these measures include extensive new efforts to recover and reuse the phosphate content within these wastes and avoid their disposal in the gypstack.  The settlement also includes a detailed plan setting the terms for the future closure and long-term care of the gypstack. The settlement requires Simplot to immediately secure and maintain approximately $126 million in dedicated financing to ensure that funding for closure and long-term care will be available when the facility is eventually closed.

Simplot also agrees to submit revised EPCRA Form R reports (Toxic Release Inventory) for 2004 to 2013 to include estimates of certain metal compounds manufactured, processed, or otherwise used at the facility.  Simplot will also pay a $775,000 civil penalty to resolve both the RCRA and EPCRA claims. 

The agency previously has required through judicial and administrative settlements that 12 phosphate fertilizer facilities complete extensive injunctive relief and bring their operations into compliance with RCRA.

A consent decree formalizing the settlement was lodged today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming, and is subject to a 30-day public comment period and approval by the federal court. The consent decree can be viewed at the Department of Justice website: www.justice.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html 

The year 2020 marks the 150th anniversary of the Department of Justice.  Learn more about the history of our agency at www.Justice.gov/Celebrating150Years.

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Author: July 9, 2020

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