Geismar, La.-based PCS Nitrogen Fertilizer L.P. has reached a settlement with federal and state agencies following its failure to manage hazardous waste streams.
The agreement comes as a result of violations outlined under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). Parties involved included the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Justice Department and the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ).
According to the settlement, third-party generator Innophos Inc. "routinely piped and/or shipped its hazardous waste streams (Raffinate and Dearsenate) to the Geismar Facility, where PCS Nitrogen stored approximately 20,000 gallons of Dearsenate per day and disposed of both hazardous waste streams, either directly or indirectly, into its Gypsum Stacks."
Between the 1960s and 2018, PCS Nitrogen was a manufacturer of phosphate products in Louisiana for agriculture and industry. Processes in the production of phosphoric acid and phosphate fertilizer created byproducts of acidic wastewater and phosphogypsum.
"The phosphogypsum was deposited and remains in large piles (some over 100 acres large and 200 feet high) referred to as phosphogypsum stacks. Acidic wastewaters are stored in the phosphogypsum stacks and surface impoundments," according to the settlement information sheet.
The company allegedly corrosive (acidic) hazardous wastes with process wastewater and phosphogypsum from phosphoric acid production. As a result, PCS Nitrogen will now need to treat more than 1 billion pounds of wastewater.
Requirements regarding the long-term closure of the facility include regulation over the next 50 years. PCS Nitrogen will shell over more then $84 million of financial assistance to ensure an "environmentally sound" closure of the facility and pay a civil penalty of $1.5 million.
“This is a very important outcome as the facility is located in an area prone to hurricanes and the financial assurance secured will protect taxpayers from paying future closure and cleanup costs," said Acting Assistant Administrator Larry Starfield for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.
Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division added, "this settlement requires treatment of all contaminated wastewater accumulated at the PCS Nitrogen facility, thus protecting sensitive wetlands and the Mississippi River. PCS Nitrogen also will secure the full cost of closure with $84 million in financial assurance to protect taxpayers, demonstrating our continued commitment to hold this industry accountable both for past violations and future contingencies.”