DuPont has agreed to pay a $725,000 fine and upgrade maintenance and hazardous material handling procedures at its century-old chemical plant in New Jersey—the facility’s second such sanctions in five years.
The Wilmington, DE-based chemical giant has signed an Administrative Consent Order with New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection following its investigation into spills and handling problems, hazardous waste disposal, drum and container storage areas, a rail siding, and an industrial wastewater treatment plant at DuPont’s Chambers Works facility in Salem County.
|A DuPont brochure offers the community a look at the Chambers Works facility, which was cited in 2006 and again this month.|
The plant manufactures more than 500 chemical intermediates for coatings and other industries.
History of Spills, Discharges
The new Consent Order follows a 2006 DEP order and $105,000 fine assessed after the state logged more than 220 spills and discharges at the plant, due to faulty and inoperable pumps, leaking valves and gaskets, valves accidentally left open, cracks in containment structures, and other accidents.
Facility upgrades ordered in June 2006 temporarily improved the plant’s record, but “since mid-2008, occurrences of incidents have again risen significantly,” and DEP has found new violations as well, according to the new order.
The new order notes more than 60 violations found on multiple DEP inspections, including:
• Failure to properly mark drums of hazardous substances;
• Failure to perform required inspections;
• Failure to comply with time frames for shipping hazardous waste off-site;
• Failure to maintain correct leachate levels at the hazardous waste landfill and in leachate control equipment;
• Mishandling of drums, resulting in discharges of sulfuric acid and other hazardous materials;
• Recycling shipping drums containing hazardous waste residues of benzyl chloride without a shipping manifest;
• Failure to properly maintain impervious surfaces at a container storage area;
• Failure to provide a containment system at the railcar area;
• Storing excessive hazardous waste sediments in a decommissioned tank at the wastewater treatment plant without required permits or inspections;
• Discharging 47 pounds of a hazardous chemical into the air due to a gasket failure; and
• Failure to determine whether solid waste being handled or in equipment was hazardous.
The Administrative Consent Order contains a compliance schedule requiring DuPont to:
• Evaluate all procedures related to proper storage, identification and accumulation of waste, and submit revised plans to address any deficiencies;
• Identify all actions undertaken to prevent spills and discharges of hazardous waste and hazardous substances, and submit revised plans to address deficiencies;
• Remove remaining hazardous waste from the wastewater holding tank;
• Perform various upgrades to the landfill and improve its maintenance and preventive measures plans;
• Characterize, remove and dispose all waste rail cars from the siding area and upgrade rail car management and inventory controls; and
• Submit quarterly reports detailing compliance progress.
DuPont, DEP React
DuPont spokesman Rick Straitman said in a statement Wednesday (Dec. 14) that the order stemmed from a series of incidents that began in 2009.
“The order includes violations that DuPont self-reported to the agency and others noted by regulatory inspectors,” Straitman said.
“Many of the infractions involved recordkeeping, labeling and other administrative functions related to the handling and treatment of wastewater. Others concerned minor leaks and spills, again mostly related to wastewater treatment operations. None of the violations posed a threat to people or the environment, on or off-site.”
In a separate statement, Wolf Skacel, Assistant DEP Commissioner for Compliance and Enforcement, urged DuPont “to apply its corporate vision of sustainability and environmental stewardship to its day-to-day operations at the Chambers Works facility, which means making the necessary investments in equipment and personnel that are critical to protection of the environment, public health and the health of workers.”
DEP Commissioner Bob Martin said the order “will ensure the Chambers Works facility meets the high standard of environmental protection that the DEP and community expect.”
Chambers Works is located along the Delaware River, on an industrial site where more than 1,200 chemicals have been developed since 1892.
Originally the site of a gunpowder plant, Chambers Works’ operations started in 1917. During World War II, the site was used for research and development of chemicals in support of the Manhattan Project.
By the 1980s, the manufacture of explosives and dyes ended, making chemical manufacturing the primary focus.