EPA, DOJ and Alabama Take Action to Address Clean Water Act Violations at the Kronospan, LLC Facility in Eastaboga, Alabama
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (November 9, 2020) – On November 2, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), and the State of Alabama, through the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) announced the filing of a proposed Consent Decree settlement with Kronospan, LLC (Kronospan) with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama to address alleged violations on the Clean Air Act.
“The EPA is committed to working with our partners to provide clean and safe water for the people of Alabama, and to enhance accountability for the regulated community,” said EPA Region 4 Administrator Mary S. Walker. “The national pretreatment program is a proven asset for protecting public utilities and their receiving waters from industrially-sourced pollutants and this settlement represents both our cooperation with ADEM as a co-regulator and a recommitment by Kronospan to come into compliance with state and federal environmental laws.
Under the terms of the proposed Consent Decree, Kronospan will bring its operations into compliance with the Clean Water Act and its State Indirect Discharge (SID) Permit. The requirements include successfully identifying and removing, as verified by a third-party auditor, the objectionable solids in its process wastewater that have caused or contributed to interference with the Oxford Waterworks and Sewer Board’s publicly owned treatment works (POTW). Kronospan will also develop and implement a pretreatment compliance training program and develop certain standard operating procedures for its facility. Kronospan estimates it will spend approximately $350,000 to provide this injunctive relief, which it will complete in less than three years.
ADEM Director Lance LeFleur welcomed the announcement of the proposed settlement. “This agreement will hold Kronospan accountable for unauthorized wastewater discharges while ensuring the company meets state and federal regulations,” LeFleur said. “More importantly, it brings relief to the local public wastewater treatment system that has been adversely impacted by the discharges, and protects water quality in Choccolocco Creek. I want to thank the EPA and the Department of Justice for working with ADEM and Kronospan to resolve a serious environmental problem” said LeFleur.
In addition, the proposed Consent Decree requires Kronospan to pay a civil penalty of $900,000, to be divided equally between the United States and the State of Alabama. In addition, Kronospan has agreed to take on a significant project that will reduce its burden on the community’s wastewater infrastructure. The supplemental environmental project valued at approximately $7,700,000 will install an evaporation system that will reduce by over 86% the annual volume of process wastewater that is pretreated and discharged to the receiving POTW in Oxford, Alabama.
As a result of this settlement, the pollutant loadings from Kronospan’s facility into the POTW will be significantly reduced. The chronic interference with the POTW’s operations and resulting pass-through of pollutants into Choccolocco Creek will cease, and the POTW’s capacity to effectively treat municipal sewage will be restored.
Kronospan, LLC is an integrated pulp and fiberboard mill that produces reconstituted wood products used in a variety of products such as furniture, laminate flooring, and other architectural applications. The company operates the production facility located in Eastaboga, Calhoun County, Alabama, as well as others in Pennsylvania. The wastewater from the Eastaboga facility is discharged to the Tull C. Allen publicly owned treatment works (POTW) operated by the Oxford Water Works and Sewer Board (OWSB) in Oxford, Alabama.
An EPA investigation found that Kronospan discharged process wastewater to the POTW without a required SID permit from 2007 until July 1, 2012, when ADEM issued Kronospan its SID permit.
The unauthorized discharge by Kronospan violated General and Specific Pretreatment Standards established by 40 C.F.R. 403, including the specific prohibitions against discharges at high temperatures, at low pH levels, at high loading rates, and containing obstructive solids. The unauthorized discharge also caused and/or contributed to interference and pass-through at the POTW. Additionally, Kronospan violated federal Categorical Pretreatment Standards in 40 C.F.R. 403 and 430, including relevant reporting requirements and the requirement for new sources to install and operate pretreatment equipment prior to discharge.
After receiving its SID permit, Kronospan’s discharge to the POTW has continued to cause and/or contribute to interference and pass-through of the POTW. Kronospan’s discharge to the POTW has at times contained high levels of suspended solids, obstructive solids, and oxygen demanding pollutants, as well as corrosive properties and high temperatures that are in excess of the SID permit conditions for discharge to the POTW. Additionally, Kronospan failed to fully comply with the terms of an earlier unilateral Administrative Order issued by the EPA.
The EPA, DOJ, and ADEM allege that Kronospan has amassed a total of over 13,000 CWA violations since it began discharging to the POTW in 2008, including causing or contributing to over 2,800 instances of interference and over 1,600 instances of pass-through of OWSB’s POTW to Choccolocco Creek. All of the parties involved believe the ongoing violations will be addressed by the terms of the settlement.