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Chemical Co. OKs $245K EPA Settlement

Friday, September 9, 2011

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Chemical maker Hercules Inc. has agreed to pay a $245,521 federal civil penalty to resolve claims that it violated Clean Air Act requirements at a manufacturing facility in Louisiana, MO.

An Environmental Protection Agency complaint said Wilmington, DE-based Hercules had violated regulations that required it to control releases of hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) by quickly repairing or replacing leaking equipment.

 Model of the Hercules plant

 Louisiana Area Historical Museum

A model of the Hercules plant is on display in the Louisiana Area (MO) Historical Museum.

According to a stipulation of settlement and judgment filed Thursday (Sept. 8) in U.S. District Court in St. Louis, Hercules was accused of violating the National Emission Standards for Organic Hazardous Air Pollutants for Equipment Leaks, which require chemical manufacturing facilities to implement Leak Detection and Repair (LDAR) programs to control HAP emissions from equipment leaks.

Under the agreement, Hercules admitted no wrongdoing.

Chemical Leaks

During an April 2007 visit to the plant, EPA inspectors found that the company did not properly identify and monitor equipment and failed to cap visibly leaking lines of formaldehyde.

In addition to formaldehyde, the facility was using pentaerythritol, methanol and acetaldehyde—all of which are classified as hazardous air pollutants. EPA issued citations against the company in July 2007.

LDAR is a work practice designed to identify leaking equipment so that emissions can be reduced through timely repairs. A manufacturing facility that is subject to LDAR requirements must be monitored at specified, regular intervals to determine whether it is leaking. Any leaking component must then be repaired or replaced within a specific time frame.

Company Responds

Global chemical manufacturer Ashland Inc., of Covington, KY, bought Hercules in 2008 for $3.3 billion.

Ashland spokesman Jim Vitak noted Friday that the EPA conducted its inspection more than a year before Ashland owned Hercules. He also noted that “there was no acknowledgement of any violation” in the stipulation.

In March 2011, Hercules sold its pentaerythritol process line business and equipment to specialty chemical maker Perstorp Polyols of Sweden and ceased operation of the formaldehyde process line.

Hercules also assured EPA that it had remedied any alleged violations, according to court documents.

Nevertheless, said Vitak, “After presenting our point of view to the agency, we found that we could not resolve the matter other than either litigation or this [settlement]. We felt this approach to be the more expedient and cost effective.”

Focus on ‘Fugitive’ Emissions

The Hercules case was part of an EPA national enforcement initiative into reducing fugitive air toxics emissions caused by facilities’ failures to comply with LDAR requirements. Leaking valves, pumps, connectors and other equipment are the largest source of emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and volatile hazardous air pollutants (VHAPs) from petroleum refineries and chemical manufacturers, according to EPA.

VOCs contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone, a major component of smog that can cause or aggravate damage to human health, forest and crops, and exterior coatings.


Tagged categories: Chemical Plants; EPA; Hazardous air pollutants; Health and safety; Hercules; Regulations; Violations; VOC emissions

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (9/12/2011, 10:00 AM)

I can't see how pentaerythritol is much of an air quality issue unless some very fine powder is being allowed to get airborne. Pentaerythritol is a solid up to ~260C

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