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Release Date: 10/01/98
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The U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have announced that Ashland Inc. has agreed to spend more than $32.5 million to settle allegations of illegal discharges of pollutants and reporting violations at its petroleum refineries in Kentucky, Minnesota and Ohio.
“Today’s action demonstrates the Clinton Administration’s commitment to ensuring that companies responsible for polluting our environment pay the price for their actions,” said EPA Administrator Carol M. Browner. “This settlement means cleaner air, cleaner water and greater protection of public health for the communities near these refineries.”

“Ashland Incorporated’s extensive and recurring violations of our nation’s pollution control laws endangered the public health -- the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the soil on which we live,” said Lois J. Schiffer, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environmental and Natural Resources Division. “Today’s announcement means that Ashland will be required to take important steps to stop the pollution it has caused, clean it up, and pay civil penalties for those violations. The end result will be a safer environment for all Americans.”

Ashland has agreed to pay more than $5.8 million in civil penalties and will spend $12 million to correct its violations and $14.9 million to perform supplemental environmental projects, such as an innovative project that will restore 274 acres of rare prairie grass in Minnesota and performing air monitoring in the Tri-State area of Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia.

The agreement, filed today in federal district court in Kentucky, resolves charges that Ashland violated the Clean Air Act (CAA), the Clean Water Act (CWA), the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA), and the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) at its refineries in Catlettsburg, Ky., St. Paul Park, Minn., and Canton, Ohio.

The claims against Ashland include the release of excess sulfur dioxide and other pollutants at its Catlettsburg and Canton facilities in violation of the CAA; unreported accidental releases of toxic chemicals at the Catlettsburg facility in violation of EPCRA; unauthorized wastewater discharges at each of the three refineries in violation of the CWA and improper management of hazardous waste in violation of RCRA.

Sulfur dioxide is an air pollutant regulated under the CAA. At high concentrations, it can affect human health, especially among asthmatics, and can harm vegetation and metals. It also can impair visibility and kill fish and water plants by acidifying lakes and streams. Ashland will be required to reduce particulate releases and improve the sulfur recovery unit at the Ohio refinery to prevent the release of sulfur dioxide.

The corrective actions Ashland will undertake include improvements to the wastewater drainage system at its Ohio facility to prevent the release of volatile organics into the atmosphere, upgrades to the wastewater treatment system at the Kentucky plant to reduce the release of harmful chemicals into the Big Sandy River, and the installation of a series of wells to prevent the release of petroleum contaminants into the Mississippi River in Minnesota.

The violations at the three refineries were discovered during inspections conducted by EPA and state regulatory agencies between September and November 1996. They were selected for inspection as part of EPA’s National Enforcement Screening Strategy, which is designed to identify extensive, ongoing or recurring patterns of violations at corporations’ facilities nationwide.

As part of the settlement, Ashland agreed to perform the following supplemental environmental projects worth over $14.8 million:
    •Restore and donate 274 acres of ecologically significant dune prairie grassland to the state of Minnesota for permanent preservation as a scientific and natural area.
    •Assist the state of Kentucky with air monitoring as part of the Tri-State Initiative in the area of Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia.
    •Install two hydrofluoric acid release detection and mitigation systems at the Ohio and Minnesota refineries, which will provide protection for the workers and the surrounding communities from possible releases of hydrofluoric acid (HF). A release of HF could
form a dense vapor cloud that could severely burn skin and eyes and irritate or disintegrate upper respiratory system tissues. The detection and mitigation devices that will be installed as part of this settlement go far beyond those required by applicable laws.
    •Establish an environmental compliance promotion and education program in the state of Kentucky.
    •Improve an oil/water separation system and two tanks at the Ohio facility to substantially reduce the emissions of volatile organic hydrocarbons to the atmosphere. Volatile organic compounds are a primary cause of smog.

A notice of the proposed settlement will be published in the Federal Register.

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