Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA): Agriculture-Related Enforcement Cases
The following are agriculture-related enforcement cases pertaining to the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).
- December 7, 2011: Fertilizer Company Agrees To Pay $1.8 Million Penalty To Resolve Hazardous Waste Violations
- April 8, 2005: Georgia Cattle Company, Owner, and Farm Manager Sentenced for Causing Bird Kill
- December 17, 2003: Washington Feed Company Fined for Illegally Dumping Diesel Fuel
- October 12, 2001: World's Largest Meatpacker Reaches Agreement With U.S. To Resolve Environmental Problems Throughout Midwest
December 7, 2011
Fertilizer Company Agrees To Pay $1.8 Million Penalty To Resolve Hazardous Waste Violations
EPA today announced that Agrifos, a former phosphoric acid and phosphate fertilizer producer, has agreed to pay a $1.8 million dollar penalty and conduct an environmental project to resolve alleged violations of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and the Clean Air Act. Violations include processing and disposing of hazardous wastewater without a permit and the improper routing of effluent from a scrubber through a cooling tower. The settlement will protect public health and the environment by reducing possible releases of hazardous wastewater into area waterways. Agrifos currently produces sulfuric acid and ammonium sulfate fertilizers.
“EPA is committed to protecting the public from releases of hazardous wastewater at phosphoric acid plants,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “Today’s settlement will significantly reduce the amount of contaminated runoff flowing from the Agrifos facility into local waterways, including the Houston Ship Channel.”
Under the agreement, Agrifos will spend $600,000 to implement a supplemental environmental project. The project involves the construction of a stormwater collection and containment barrier around its fertilizer production unit to eliminate or minimize impact on the environment. The containment structure will contain all spills and leaks from the fertilizer production unit and collect contaminated stormwater runoff from wet weather events for reuse in the production process. Based on the average rainfall at the facility, the containment barrier is expected to capture more than one million gallons of contaminated stormwater annually for reuse.
“When a company fails to control pollution, the EPA will vigorously enforce our environmental laws,” said EPA Regional Administrator Al Armendariz. “This case not only brings about penalties but also requires corrective action to prevent reoccurrence that would threaten our state's waterways.”
There have been four enforcement actions related to the Agrifos site in the last three years. In September 2010, Agrifos paid a $535,206 civil penalty to EPA for Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know (EPCRA), Superfund, and Clean Air Act violations at its facility. In November 2010, a settlement for $1.485 million was reached with Air Products, an adjacent chemical facility, to resolve violations which included the exchange of contaminated waste acid from Air Products to Agrifos. In September 2010, a settlement with ExxonMobil requires ExxonMobil to conduct extensive closure and cleanup work on the phosphogypsum stacks system at the Agrifos facility, which was previously owned by ExxonMobil. ExxonMobil also agreed to pay a $100,000 civil penalty. And, in September of 2008, RCRA and Superfund orders were issued to ExxonMobil and Agrifos to address the release of contaminated wastewater from the gypsum stacks at the Agrifos site into the Houston Ship Channel.
The settlement is part of EPA’s enforcement initiative to reduce pollution from mineral processing operations. EPA has focused on ensuring compliance in the phosphoric acid industry because of the high risk of releases of acidic wastewaters at these facilities.
More information on the settlement is available at www.epa.gov/compliance/resources/cases/civil/rcra/agrifos.htm.
April 8, 2005
Cattle Company, Owner, and Farm Manager Sentenced for Causing Bird Kill
Kahn Cattle Company of Bartow County, Georgia, the owner, and the farm manager were all sentenced on March 24, 2005 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia in Rome, Ga. Kahn Cattle Company was ordered to pay $95,664 in restitution and also pay a $170,000 criminal fine for illegally disposing of hazardous waste in violation of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. One hundred eight thousand dollars of the fine paid by Kahn Cattle Company will be used to acquire and preserve wetlands. The owner and farm manager will each spend 60 days in home confinement, perform 160 hours of community service, and serve one year of supervised release. Each man will also pay a $15,000 fine for unlawfully killing approximately 3,300 migratory birds in violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. All three defendants were additionally ordered to publish advertisements in trade publications warning others not to use pesticides to illegally kill birds. On or about Jan. 20, 2003, the owner and farm manager spread corn laced with a chemical known as Warbex around a pond on property owned by Kahn Cattle Company. The tainted corn was spread in order to kill nuisance birds. Warbex is a topical preparation that is applied to cattle to control insect pests. It contains Famphur, which is a highly toxic substance that is not meant for ingestion. As a result of this act, federal and state agents ultimately collected 3,326 dead birds, including a great horned owl, red-tailed hawks, mourning doves, Canada geese, a mallard duck, a cardinal, blue jays, red-winged blackbirds, a brown thrasher, grackles, crows and cowbirds. The case was investigated by the Atlanta Office of EPA's Criminal Investigation Division and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with support from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. The case was prosecuted by the U.S. attorney's office in Atlanta.
December 17, 2003Washington Feed Company Fined for Illegally Dumping Diesel Fuel
Brown Boys Feed Inc., Royal City, WA, pled guilty on Dec. 8 to violating the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act by illegally disposing of diesel fuel. The defendant was sentenced to pay a $35,000 fine and serve two years probation. Additionally, the defendant has paid $46,000 to clean up the illegal fuel dump site, and will be required to disclose all financial information, including tax returns, during the probation period. In its plea, Brown Boys Feed admitted to illegally dumping diesel fuel at a work site near Vantage, WA, in 2001, after the Washington State Patrol discovered the trucks were illegally using untaxed diesel fuel, or "red fuel," for highway driving. The use of red fuel is legal only in farm vehicles. Diesel fuel contains benzene, a known cause of cancer. Brown Boys Feed has a history of civil fines for environmental violations, having previously paid fines totaling $125,000 to the Washington Department of Ecology. The case was investigated by the Portland Area Office of EPA's Criminal Investigation Division and the Washington Department of Ecology. The case was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Yakima, WA.
October 12, 2001World's Largest Meatpacker Reaches Agreement With U.S. To Resolve Environmental Problems Throughout Midwest
Today's settlement resolves violations by IBP inc. of the Clean Water Act's (CWA) National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES), the Clean Air Act (CAA), the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), and the Emergency Planning & Community Right-To-Know Act (EPCRA), at its facility in Dakota City, Neb., and at other facilities in Nebraska, Texas, Iowa, and Kansas.
The settlement commits IBP inc. to corrective action valued at approximately $10 million to make environmental improvements that will reduce water and air emissions. Specifically IBP has committed to construct additional wastewater treatment systems to reduce its discharges of ammonia to the Missouri river, and has agreed to continue and expand improvements ordered last year that will significantly reduce hydrogen sulfide air emissions. The company also has agreed to pay a $4.1 million civil penalty.
- IBP's Dakota City, facility consists of a beef slaughterhouse, rendering operations, tannery and wastewater treatment facility.
- Five thousand cattle a day are processed at IBP's Dakota City slaughterhouse, and the tannery processes those hides and a similar amount of uncured hides from other IBP facilities daily.
- Wastewater from IBP's slaughterhouse and tannery is processed in a wastewater treatment plant owned and operated by IBP and located one mile east of the main complex.
- The wastewater treatment system includes a series of anaerobic covered and uncovered lagoons. Hydrogen sulfide is generated at the wastewater treatment plant and the tannery and released into the air.
- Significant amounts of ammonia are generated by this facility and discharged into the Missouri River.
- IBP owns or has owned a number of slaughterhouse facilities across the country. Today's action also resolves violations at facilities located in Gibbon, Neb.; West Point, Neb.; Madison, Neb.; Lexington, Neb.; Palestine, Texas; Storm Lake, Iowa; Columbus, Iowa; Denison, Iowa; Council Bluffs, Iowa; Perry, Iowa; Waterloo, Iowa; South Hutchinson, Kan.; Emporia, Kan.; and Holcomb, Kan.
- On Sept. 28, 2001, IBP, was acquired by Tysons Foods Inc.
- EPA filed a complaint on Jan. 12, 2000, alleging violations of numerous laws at the Dakota City facility for more than a decade, including:
- CERCLA and EPCRA: Since 1989, IBP has released
the hazardous substance, hydrogen sulfide (H2S) in quantities above
the reportable quantity (100 lbs/day) established by EPA and has failed
to report such releases. IBP estimates it has released as much as 1,919
lbs of H2S per day.
CAA: IBP failed to obtain PSD permits after three major modifications to the facility.
CWA: IBP has committed numerous violations of numeric and narrative limitations in its NPDES permit. Most seriously, IBP has had a toxicity problem dating back to 1988, and has failed to properly operate and maintain its wastewater treatment plant.
RCRA: IBP until recently failed to manifest off-site shipment of spent gun cartridges containing lead, which is a hazardous substance.
- EPA's complaint seeks injunctive relief and civil penalties for the above past violations.
- An agreement for interim injunctive relief was reached in May 2000 and the first Partial Consent Decree was entered in September 2000, which required IBP to reduce emissions of hydrogen sulfide, and thereby reduce the threat to human health and welfare. The injunctive relief in the settlement was valued at $13 million. By Nov. 30, 2000, IBP completed construction and placed into operation three new covered anaerobic lagoons. The three new and two existing covered lagoons are connected to a scrubber and flare to remove hydrogen sulfide.
Human Health and Other Impacts
- Hydrogen sulfide is deadly in high concentrations and chronic exposure to low concentrations can cause a number of adverse health effects, including respiratory problems, headache, nausea, fatigue, eye irritation, and possible neurological problems.
- EPA and Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality (NDEQ) have received numerous complaints of health effects and property damage from citizens living near the Dakota City plant. NDEQ has repeatedly documented concentrations of Total Reduced Sulfur (TRS), which consists primarily of hydrogen sulfide, in the ambient air surrounding the IBP Dakota City facility at levels exceeding Nebraska's health-based standard of 100 parts per billion as a 30-minute average.
- IBP's whole effluent toxicity test results since 1988 indicate that its wastewater discharge is consistently acutely toxic to aquatic life. IBP identified ammonia as the primary cause of toxicity.
Terms of the Proposed Second and Final Consent Decree
Civil penalty: $4.1 million. $1.85 million of the penalty will be shared with the State of Nebraska, a co-plaintiff on the CAA claims, which will direct the money to the local school system. (Under a separate administrative action negotiated with Region 5, IBP agreed to pay an additional $200,000 to resolve EPCRA/CERCLA violations at its Joslin, Ill., facility concurrently with this settlement.)
The settlement commits IBP inc. to corrective action valued at approximately $10 million to make environmental improvements that will reduce water and air emissions:
Injunctive Relief: The current Consent Decree contains injunctive relief to resolve the CWA claims that supplements the injunctive relief previously obtained under the Partial Consent Decree for the CAA claims. The major elements of the current injunctive relief are:
Dakota City, Neb. Facility:
- Design, construct, and properly operate a nitrification system at its wastewater treatment facility on or before July 29, 2003.
- Meet pre- and post-construction interim limits and monitoring requirements.
- Staff the wastewater treatment plant 24 hours/day, seven days a week with a certified operator from the time the nitrification system is operational until six months after continuous compliance with the post-construction interim ammonia effluent limits.
- Assemble and maintain an operating and maintenance manual for the wastewater treatment plant.