BATON ROUGE, La. (CN) — After dumping untreated hazardous waste into the ground for more than a decade, Innophos, a purified phosphoric acid manufacturer in Louisiana, has settled for $1.4 million with the Environmental Protection Agency.
The settled federal lawsuit against Innophos was filed on Jan. 12 by the United States and the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality.
Innophos’ plant in Geismar, about an hour’s drive west of New Orleans, sits on ¾ of an acre on the Mississippi River in Ascension Parish.
Since 2004 Innophos has bought merchant grade phosphoric acid from a neighbor on the river, PCS, and turned it into purified phosphoric acid. The manufacturing process produces two waste streams known as RP pondwater and raffinate.
RP pondwater comes from initial filtration to remove arsenic that naturally occurs in the source phosphate ore. Raffinate is produced when Innophos further processes the merchant grade acid to remove fluoride and other impurities.
From at least February 2004 until today, Innophos stored the raffinate waste in tanks before piping it directly to another facility for storage. The RP pondwater streamed directly to the storage container.
The storage facility did not have a permit to take Innophos’s hazardous material. It took the hazardous waste and dumped it into the earth.
The EPA knew as early as February 2004 that the raffinate and PR pondwater were hazardous corrosives, each with a pH of less than 1.
Louisiana law sets regulatory levels for arsenic, cadmium and chromium at 5 mg/L, 1 mg/L and 5mg/ L, respectively.
The raffinate measured cadmium at 32 mg/L, and chromium at 215 mg/L.
The RP pondwater measured 17 mg/L, cadmium at 19 mg/L, and chromium at 34 mg/L, according to the settled complaint.
Deborah Gitin, senior counsel for the Environmental Enforcement Section at the Department of Justice, who filed the lawsuit, did not reply to email questions Tuesday.
The United States and Louisiana say Innophos began dumping the waste in 2004 and took corrective measures only in 2012.
Under the settlement, Innophos will pay $1.398 million, to be split equally between the United States and Louisiana.
In its own statement, Innophos said it settled to address the government’s “concerns regarding a small number of manufacturing processes at its Geismar” facility.
Innophos said that as part of the settlement it will build a $16 million deep well injection system by 2018 to dispose of the hazardous waste.
It said that 2008 was a pivotal year in its negotiations with the EPA, and that the deep well injection solution “allows the company to continue its current PPA operation in Geismar, while satisfying the outstanding environmental concerns raised in 2008 by the government parties.”
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