United States announces largest settlement under EPA`s audit policy
Invista will pay a $1.7 million civil penalty and spend up to an estimated $500 million to correct self-reported environmental violations discovered at facilities in seven states, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Justice Department announced today. The company disclosed more than 680 violations of water, air, hazardous waste, emergency planning and preparedness, and pesticide regulations to EPA after auditing 12 facilities it acquired from DuPont in 2004.
“By correcting these violations, Invista will reduce harmful air pollution by nearly 10,000 tons per year,” said Catherine R. McCabe, acting assistant administrator of EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “Invista is making a clean start in a settlement that achieves significant environmental benefits, and we encourage other new owners to do the same.”
“This settlement is a significant achievement, as it will reduce air pollution in numerous communities, and demonstrates the United States’ commitment to ensuring that all facility owners come into compliance with environmental requirements,” said John C. Cruden, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “This settlement reflects an effective use of EPA’s audit policy and the value of companies performing audits and working with the United States to correct violations found at their facilities.”
The emission reductions resulting from correcting these violations will result in estimated annual human health benefits valued at over $325 million, including 30 fewer premature deaths per year, 2,000 fewer days/year when people would miss school or work, and over 9,000 fewer cases of upper and lower respiratory symptoms.
The settlement resolves violations disclosed under Invista’s corporate audit agreement with EPA. Invista conducted 45 separate audits of environmental practices and compliance at facilities located in Seaford, Del.; Athens, Calhoun, and Dalton, Ga.; Kinston, N.C.; Camden, S.C.; Chattanooga, Tenn.; LaPorte, Orange, and Victoria, Texas; and Martinsville and Waynesboro, Va.
As part of its corrective action requirements agreed to in the settlement, Invista will install pollution control equipment to treat air pollutants at its Seaford, Del.; Camden, S.C.; Chattanooga, Tenn.; and Victoria, Texas facilities. The company has also applied for applicable air and water permits, has installed adequate secondary containment for oil storage areas, and has notified state and local emergency planning and response organizations of the presence of hazardous substances.
To ensure continued compliance and minimization of the benzene wastes generated at the Victoria and Orange, Texas facilities, Invista is required under the settlement to either upgrade control equipment or make major changes to its processes used to handle these wastes. EPA estimates that these actions will reduce air emissions of benzene by more than nine tons annually, and eliminate 25 to 750 tons per year of benzene from wastewater.
Invista is a multi-national manufacturer of a wide range of polymer-based fibers, including Lycra, Stainmaster, and Coolmax.
This is the largest settlement under EPA’s audit policy, which was launched in 1995. The policy provides incentives to companies that voluntarily discover, promptly disclose, and expeditiously correct environmental violations. The companies must also take steps to prevent future violations. EPA may reduce or waive penalties for certain violations if the facility meets the conditions of the policy. Consistent with the audit policy, EPA waived a large portion of the penalty in this case.
EPA’s experience with Invista guided the development of a national interim audit policy for new owners—announced in August 2008—designed to encourage other new owners to make a “clean start” at their recently acquired facilities.
The states of Delaware and South Carolina, and the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Air Pollution Control Board in Tennessee have also joined in today’s consent decree and will share portions of the civil penalty with EPA.
The consent decree, lodged in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and approval by the federal court.