DuPont Corp. has agreed to pay a $500,000 fine for numerous state and federal environmental violations involving pollutant discharges at a pigment plant in Delaware, under a new court settlement.
The consent decree resolves multiple violations that date to 2005 at the Edge Moor manufacturing facility in Edgemoor, DE. The violations include discharges of hydrogen chloride, titanium tetrachloride, iron chloride and wastewater treatment plant chemicals into the Delaware River.
Tim Shaffer / Greenpeace
|An airship owned by the environmental group Greenpeace surveys the DuPont pigment plant in 2010.|
DuPont’s Edge Moor White Pigment Plant is a 115-acre manufacturing facility just east of the City of Wilmington, along the western banks of the Delaware River, north of Cherry Island, where the facility’s closed solid-waste landfill is located.
On its web site, DuPont calls the Edge Moor facility a “model chemical plant.” The site does not mention the court settlement or violations.
History of Violations
Since 1935, the Edge Moor plant has manufactured titanium dioxide (TiO2), the most common pigment used in coatings. Today, the plant’s production capacity is 14 times the original capacity, according to DuPont.
|The plant, which has produced titanium dioxide along the Delaware River since 1935, has a history of environmental problems.|
About 200 DuPont employees, plus 100 contractors, work at the plant, one of four DuPont manufacturing sites in Delaware.
The facility has a history of regulatory violations. The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) cited DuPont in April 2008 for numerous excessive effluent discharges and other violations of its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit.
In addition, DNREC issued an administrative consent order to the plant in 2001and required it to perform facility-wide corrective actions. In 2004, DNREC prepared a Draft Corrective Action Permit for the plant, which eventually was approved and became effective in 2006.
Other Settlement Terms
In addition to the penalty specified in the new settlement, DuPont has agreed to complete an environmental compliance assessment of the Edge Moor plant within 15 months, and then develop a plan and schedule for each corrective action to reduce the risk of future wastewater violations. EPA, in consultation with DNREC, will then review the plan for approval.
DuPont must also submit stormwater inspection reports to EPA for the duration of the consent decree.
DuPont spokesman Rick Straitman said in a statement Monday (Nov. 14) that the “allegations” had arisen from “self-reported” sampling data between 2005 and 2011.
“DuPont has been working with the regulators and DOJ for some time to resolve these matters,” the statement said. The settlement agreement “was reached after DuPont agreed to numerous government audits and inspections and joined with DOJ in an independent review of the wastewater handling capabilities of the plant.”
Noting the requirement to study wastewater handling at the facility, Straitman said: “In fact, DuPont has already completed a number of projects at the Edge Moor plant to improve procedures related to permitted discharges from the plant. More than $14 million has been spent to date on this work and additional improvements are planned. DuPont is committed to reducing the company’s environmental footprint and ensuring the safety of our employees and neighbors.”
‘An Important Step Forward’
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Shawn M. Garvin said the settlement was of major environmental significance.
"We’re taking an important step forward in protecting and preserving the vital resources and recreational opportunities that the Delaware River provides,” Garvin said. "This settlement will improve water quality for all who enjoy and depend upon the river."
DNREC Secretary Collin O’Mara said the settlement terms address past violations, “while taking steps to meet future challenges in an effort to ensure that the river’s water quality continues to improve.”
“We must be ever vigilant in protecting the Delaware River,” said O’Mara.
Discharges, Stormwater Violations
The more serious current violations include discharges of hydrogen chloride, titanium tetrachloride and iron chloride into the Delaware River. Other violations include the discharges of ores, and overflow from the plant’s neutralizers and clarifiers into the river.
Additionally, the plant’s NPDES permit violations included noncompliance with maximum concentration and loading limits for total suspended solids, pH, iron, visible foam, unpermitted discharges of “non-storm water” through storm water only outfalls, storm water best management practices, unpermitted discharges of contaminated storm water, and various violations of general permit conditions and requirements of the various outfalls.
DNREC also noted that effluent violations from this facility added excess volumes of pollutants discharged into the Delaware River in the form of solids, organics, metals, and potentially harmful pH levels to the state’s surface waters, and has contributed to impairment of the state’s waterways.
The consent decree involves DNREC, EPA, and state and federal Departments of Justice.
Earnings, Income Soar
DuPont is the world’s largest producer of titanium dioxide. In its most recent quarter, the Wilmington, DE-based chemical giant posted consolidated net sales of $9.2 billion—32 percent higher than the previous year.
The Performance Chemicals segment, which includes the titanium dioxide unit, recorded sales of $2.1 billion—a 28 percent increase over the previous year, due overwhelmingly to higher pricing.