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EPA in Alabama

Drummond Company Clean Air Act Settlement Information Sheet

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Region 4 (Atlanta office), the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Jefferson County Board of Health (JCBH) announced a settlement agreement on February 8, 2019, with Drummond Company (Drummond) that will resolve allegations that Drummond violated the Clean Air Act at the coke byproduct recovery plant located at its ABC Coke facility in Tarrant, Alabama. The settlement agreement is set forth in a Consent Decree that has been lodged in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama along with a Complaint filed by the United States and JCBH against Drummond. The Complaint sets forth allegations that Drummond violated the Clean Air Act and implementing regulations applicable to the coke byproduct recovery plant known as National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAPs).

Overview of Processes at ABC Coke Facility

ABC Coke produces metallurgical coke and has two related industrial processes at its facility in Tarrant including the coke battery process, which is a series of coke ovens where coal is heated to create coke, and the coke byproduct recovery process where coke oven gas produced during the coking process is piped from the coke batteries for further processing. Coke oven gas is a hazardous air pollutant (HAP) as specified in Section 112 of the Clean Air Act (CAA) and contains benzene, toluene, and xylene.  The coke byproduct recovery plant processes the coke oven gas so that it can be re-used as fuel to heat boilers in the coke making process. Other re-usable chemical byproducts resulting from the coke byproduct recovery process are sold to various industries, including steelmaking, oil, and agriculture.  

Inspection and Alleged Violations

In 2011, EPA Region 4, EPA’s National Enforcement Investigations Center (NEIC) and JCBH conducted an inspection at the coke byproduct recovery plant at the ABC Coke facility as part of the EPA Air Toxics National Initiative. Based on the inspection, EPA and JCBH alleged that the byproduct plant was out of compliance with the following NESHAPs: 40 CFR Part 61, Subpart L (Benzene Emissions from Coke By-product Recovery Plants), Subpart V (Equipment Leaks and Fugitive Emissions), and Subpart FF (Benzene Waste Operations).  EPA and JCBH conducted additional inspections of the coke byproduct recovery process in 2014 and 2018.  

40 CFR Part 61, Subpart L & V Requirements and Alleged Violations

The purpose of Subparts L and V are to control and reduce fugitive emissions of HAPs and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can occur during the coke byproduct recovery process. The rules require ABC Coke to regularly monitor equipment and components such as valves, pumps, connectors, flanges, and tanks for leaks of HAPs and VOCs that exceed established leak threshold concentrations.  Facilities regulated by Subparts L and V are required to implement these rules through a Leak Detection and Repair (LDAR) program that specifies how to monitor and check for leaks.  When a leak is found, the facility is required to repair the leaking piece of equipment. 
Based on the 2011 inspection and a review of company records, EPA and JCBH determined that Drummond’s LDAR program at the coke byproduct recovery plant had a number of deficiencies, where equipment components were not included in the program, monitoring records were incomplete and deficient, open-ended lines were observed, and components were not being monitored at the appropriate leak definition or frequency. LDAR programs are required to use procedures set forth in 40 CFR Part 60, Method 21, to locate and repair leaking components including valves, pumps, connectors, compressors and agitators, in order to minimize the emissions of fugitive HAPs and VOCs. The inspection revealed that Method 21 was not being properly conducted by Drummond.

40 CFR Part 61, Subpart FF Requirements and Alleged Violations

The Subpart FF regulations specifically focus on benzene and require Drummond to account for benzene in waste water streams by calculating what is known as Total Annual Benzene or TAB. The TAB measures the amount of benzene present in waste streams that flows through any equipment and components at the byproduct recovery plant that are not properly sealed and totally enclosed, and that can escape into the atmosphere. The regulations require the quantity of benzene in any particular waste stream that is open to the atmosphere to be measured and included in the facility’s TAB. If the TAB exceeds 10 megagrams (Mg), Drummond is required to take corrective actions to remove and reduce benzene and control emissions.  

Based on the inspection, EPA and JCBH alleged that Drummond did not identify and include in its TAB calculation all benzene-containing waste water streams and that as a result of the failure to include those waste streams, Drummond miscalculated the TAB to be under 1 Mg when it was actually over 10 Mg, and failed to take actions to properly control, reduce or eliminate the benzene in those streams as required.   

Corrective Actions

In response to the findings of the 2011 inspection and on-going settlement negotiations, Drummond initiated certain corrective actions at the coke byproduct recovery plant to address some of the alleged violations. Such actions included, for example, hard-piping and enclosing valves on the tar decanters, enclosing the benzene-toluene-xylene (BTX) decanter overflow pipe, hard-piping all of the facility’s condensate drip pots, and hard-piping a seal on a gas holder. During follow up inspections in 2014 and 2018, EPA and JCBH observed these corrective actions that Drummond had taken. A complete list of actions taken by Drummond prior to lodging of the Consent Decree are shown in Appendix B to the Consent Decree.   

Actions Required by Consent Decree to Address Alleged Violations

As a part of the settlement negotiations, and prior to the lodging of this Consent Decree, Drummond developed and began to implement in 2017, an overhauled LDAR program, that includes the use of a third party LDAR contractor to conduct Method 21 monitoring, use of electronic datalogging, creation of an electronic database for managing the LDAR program, and identification of additional components at the coke byproduct process area to be included in the LDAR program. The new LDAR program will ensure that components are being monitored at the correct leak definition and frequency, and that leaks are found and repaired within the required time period. The Consent Decree requires Drummond to continue to implement the revised LDAR program. 

Additionally, Drummond will annually review and establish a management of change (MOC) program that ensures that any new pieces of equipment added to the coke byproduct plant and that are subject to LDAR requirements are integrated into the LDAR program. Drummond also will be required to hire a third-party consultant to conduct LDAR Program audits over the course of the Consent Decree implementation.  The Consent Decree also requires Drummond to address all remaining waste water streams at the byproducts plant, including permanently enclosing and connecting the Dirty Water Sump, Drain Collection Sump, and the Wilputte Decanter to a closed vent capture system that routes VOCs and HAPs to an air pollution control system. This equipment has also been included in the facility’s LDAR program and is being monitored. 

Drummond will also permanently enclose or cover the Tar Crumb containers at the exits of the Tar Decanters, so that rainwater cannot mix in with the contents of the containers. Drummond will develop an annual Benzene Sampling Training Program for employees and contractors asked to draw benzene samples, and annually identify all waste water streams, calculate its TAB and submit a report to EPA and JCBH. 

Benefits of the Settlement

The actions taken by Drummond during settlement negotiations have resulted in a reduction of  HAP and VOC emissions, and the actions to be implemented under this Consent Decree will further reduce such emissions from the coke byproduct recovery plant. 

Civil Penalty

The proposed Consent Decree requires Drummond to pay a $775,000 civil penalty.

Supplemental Environmental Project (SEP)

Under the Consent Decree, Drummond will conduct a SEP that will require it to rent an infrared camera to use during four semi-annual sampling and monitoring events for two consecutive years during the life of the Consent Decree. The infrared camera is a very effective and reliable tool for finding and confirming leaks. The Consent Decree requires Drummond to spend a minimum of $16,000 on the SEP project. 

Comment Period

The proposed settlement, lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval. Information on submitting comment is available at the Department of Justice website: http://www.justice.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html

Please note:

40 C.F.R. Part 61, Subpart FF (National Emission Standard for Benzene Waste Operations) requires Drummond to manage benzene in waste streams at its coke by-product recovery plant (byproduct plant) by installing controls and enclosing and sealing all pipes and other equipment open to the atmosphere to reduce and minimize leaks of benzene.  The Total Annual Benzene (TAB) calculation required by Subpart FF quantifies the amount of benzene that is in the waste water streams flowing through pipes and equipment at the byproduct plant.  If none of the waste streams at the byproduct plant are open to the atmosphere up until the point where they reach the final control (treatment) device, which at the ABC Coke byproduct plant is an ammonia still, then those waste streams are not counted in the TAB.  In that scenario, the TAB for the byproduct plant will be calculated based on benzene quantity in the treated waste that exits the ammonia still.  If the byproduct plant has waste streams subject to Subpart FF that are not fully enclosed or are open to the atmosphere, the TAB calculation must include benzene quantities found in those waste streams, as well as the benzene in the waste discharged from the final control device, whether an ammonia still or another device. 

Although fugitive emissions of benzene are likely to occur from benzene-containing waste streams at any coke byproduct plant when equipment and piping are not properly sealed and controlled, a TAB calculation does not measure or quantify how much benzene has been emitted into the air, as implied by some news outlets reporting on the settlement.  Neither Subpart FF nor the other NESHAP regulations applicable to coke byproduct plants and involved in this settlement establish air emission limits for benzene, nor do they require Drummond or any coke byproduct plant to sample ambient air specifically for concentrations of benzene.

Subsequent to the 2011 inspection, EPA recalculated the facility’s TAB at approximately 38 Mg/yr by including additional alleged waste streams identified by EPA and the Jefferson County Board of Health (JCBH) during the inspection.  Because the TAB exceeded 10 Mg/yr, EPA and JCBH asserted that Drummond was required under Subpart FF to conduct corrective actions to seal up leaking pipes and equipment and to install additional controls.  After Drummond completed actions to address some of the more significant concerns such as permanently enclosing an open-ended overflow pipe, several of the additional waste streams identified by EPA and JCBH were no longer relevant to the TAB calculation, thereby reducing the TAB.  EPA and JCBH anticipate that Drummond’s actions taken to date, along with additional actions required under the Consent Decree to seal and enclose any remaining leaking equipment and to install additional controls will result in the TAB being reduced below 1 Mg.     

Contact Information

James Pinkney
Public Affairs Specialist
EPA Region 4 Office of External Affairs
United States Environmental Protection Agency Region 4
61 Forsyth St. SW, Atlanta, Georgia, 30303
(404) 562-9183
pinkney.james@epa.gov