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Enforcement

Vopak North America Inc. Clean Air Act Settlement Agreement

WASHINGTON (May 17, 2017) -- The Department of Justice, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality today announced an agreement with Vopak Terminal Deer Park Inc. and Vopak Logistics Services USA, Inc., that will improve air quality in the Houston area by strengthening air pollution controls and compliance with federal and state clean air laws at Vopak’s chemical storage terminal and wastewater treatment facility in Deer Park, Texas.

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Overview of Company

Vopak North America Inc. (doing business as Vopak Americas) is a subsidiary of Royal Vopak, an international tank storage company headquartered in Rotterdam, Netherlands, with 74 terminals in 26 countries. Today, Vopak Americas owns three terminals in the United States, the largest of which is the subject of this matter and is co-located with a waste treatment, recovery and disposal operation on the Houston Ship Channel in or around Deer Park, Texas. The terminal provides temporary storage for a range of products, including biofuels, chemicals, petroleum products, base oils, and lubricants, consisting of 243 tanks with a collective capacity of over 7 million barrels. The tanks range from 1,000 barrels to 80,000 barrels in size and receive products from barge, pipeline, rail, truck and marine vessels.

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Violations

The air emissions at the terminal facility derive from three primary sources: terminal bulk storage tanks, flares, and the waste treatment, recovery and disposal operation, which includes a wastewater treatment system (WWTS). The terminal generates storm water and process wastewater that contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which Vopak treats on site at the WWTS. The EPA inspections of the facility in 2012, 2014, and 2015 identified, among other things, leaking tanks, inefficient flares, and process equipment (e.g., open-top tanks and VOC/water separators) at the WWTS that were releasing excess emissions of VOCs.

A complaint filed by the U.S. Department of Justice, on behalf of EPA and the State of Texas, alleges violations associated with all three of these sources and Vopak has agreed to implement a range of injunctive relief across the facility to address each of these issues.

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Injunctive Relief

A proposed settlement agreement, a consent decree, includes requirements to control air emissions at the WWTS and specifies operational requirements for the flares to ensure adequate combustion. In addition, the agreement requires an inspection and repair program for the tank terminal and requires this program to be incorporated into the facility’s permit such that it survives termination of the consent decree. In addition, the agreement requires Vopak to engage a third party auditor to monitor Vopak’s compliance with the consent decree and to make recommendations on waste minimization at the tank terminal to limit the loading on the WWTS during the period in which the WWTS controls are being constructed. EPA estimates that the cost of the injunctive relief in this settlement is approximately $5 million.

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Pollutant Impacts

The violations resulted in excess emissions of VOCs and hazardous air pollutants (HAPs). VOCs are ozone precursors, with the excess VOC emissions contributing to the area’s ozone nonattainment status.

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Health and Environmental Benefits

Human health effects of ozone include irritation of the respiratory system, reduction of lung function, aggravation of asthma, and inflammation/damage to the lining of the lung, especially for sensitive groups like children and people with respiratory disease, and adults who are active outdoors. Exposure to HAPs results in tangible inhalation, dermal or oral hazards, based on scientific exposure studies. HAPs are known or suspected to cause cancer or other serious health effects, such as reproductive effects or birth defects.

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State Partner

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality was a co-plaintiff in this case.

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Civil Penalty

The proposed consent decree requires Vopak to pay a civil penalty of $2.5 million, of which half will be paid to the State of Texas.

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Comment Period

The proposed settlement, lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval. Information on submitting comment is available at the Department of Justice.

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For more information, contact:

Robert Klepp, Attorney
Air Enforcement Division
Office of Civil Enforcement
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20460
(202) 564-5805
klepp.robert@epa.gov

Daniel Hoyt, Environmental Engineer
Air Enforcement Division
Office of Civil Enforcement
U. S. Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20460
(202) 564-7898
hoyt.daniel@epa.gov

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