BEAUMONT, Texas – The U.S. Department of Justice, the Eastern District of Texas, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) have announced a settlement with E.I. Du Pont de Nemours and Company (DuPont) and Performance Materials NA, Inc. (PMNA) to resolve alleged violations of hazardous waste, air, and water environmental laws at the PMNA Sabine River chemical manufacturing facility in Orange, Texas. Under this settlement agreement, DuPont and PMNA will conduct compliance audits, control benzene emissions, and perform other injunctive relief to address violations at the facility. Defendants will also pay a $3.1 million civil penalty and attorney’s fees to the State of Texas. These measures will benefit nearby communities already overburdened by pollution by reducing uncontrolled emissions of hazardous air pollutants and unpermitted discharges from surface impoundments at the facility.
In a joint complaint filed on October 13, 2021, the United States, on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the State of Texas asserted claims against DuPont and PMNA for alleged violations of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), the Clean Water Act (CWA), the Clean Air Act (CAA), Section 7.002 of the Texas Water Code, Tex. Water Code § 7.002, and applicable regulations, at the former DuPont facility now owned and operated by PMNA. The alleged RCRA violations include failure to make hazardous waste determinations, the treatment, storage or disposal of hazardous waste without a RCRA permit, and failure to meet land disposal restrictions. The alleged CWA violations include unpermitted discharges of process wastewater in violation of the facility’s Texas Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits. The alleged CAA violations include failure to comply with the national emission standards for hazardous air pollutants for benzene waste operations and for miscellaneous organic chemical manufacturing for certain waste streams.
“The Eastern District of Texas is a proud home to numerous natural resources including lakes, rivers, and streams, which span the district,” said U.S. Attorney Nicholas J. Ganjei for the Eastern District of Texas. “We are also home to some of the leading names in industry. Generally, these two co-exist harmoniously. However, when industry violates applicable laws and harms the environment, the Eastern District of Texas is committed to taking steps to hold that actor accountable and require better compliance in the future.”
“The petrochemical industry must operate in compliance with environmental laws,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “We will continue to hold operators accountable to address pollution from industrial operations that violate the law, such as those at the Sabine River facility, and to enhance public health and the environment, particularly in surrounding communities overburdened by industrial pollution.”
“This settlement ensures proper management of hazardous wastes, requires a comprehensive review of the facility’s environmental compliance across all media, and ensures cleanup of contamination from past operations,” said Acting Assistant Administrator Larry Starfield of the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “This case not only benefits the environment but demonstrates our commitment to advancing justice and equity to communities across Texas.”
“TCEQ is committed to protecting human health and the environment consistent with sustainable economic development,” said Executive Director Toby Baker for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). “This settlement is a representation of that commitment.”
Under the settlement, an independent third party will conduct multimedia compliance audits to review the facility’s compliance with RCRA, the CWA and the CAA, as well as related state laws and regulations. Additionally, the defendants will undertake measures to monitor and control benzene emissions and pH levels in wastewaters. They also will conduct soil, sediment or groundwater sampling to determine the extent of contamination within and from certain surface impoundments. The defendants will perform this sampling and necessary cleanup work pursuant to the Texas Risk Reduction Program.
The consent decree was lodged with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas on Oct. 13, 2021 and is subject to publication in the Federal Register and an opportunity for public comment.