Fines for Not Reporting Chemical Releases

Tuesday, March 31, 2015 @ 10:03 AM gHale

For not reporting hundreds of uncontrolled releases of toxic chemicals at its eastern Idaho phosphate plant, Monsanto Co. will pay $600,000 in fines.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Justice on Thursday announced the agreement involving the biotechnology company’s Soda Springs facilities.

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The chemicals released are hazardous and can pose serious health risks, officials said. Monsanto said there were no allegations the releases exceeded state of federal standards, or they contributed to any known health concerns in the Soda Springs area.

Federal officials said the releases occurred between 2006 and 2009, with the plant emitting hydrogen cyanide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and mercury. Laws require companies to report such releases immediately.

“Each of these chemicals are hazardous and can pose serious health risks to workers and the community if mishandled or released in an uncontrolled manner,” federal officials said in a statement.

P4 Production LLC, a wholly owned Monsanto subsidiary, operates the Soda Springs facilities. The company said it reconciled differences with the EPA, some as early as 2009, and received the EPA’s violation notice in May 2011.

“The protection of our employees, public health and the environment is always our No. 1 priority,” said Roger Gibson, P4’s vice president of operations. “As a long-time neighbor within the Soda Springs community, we care deeply about public health and the quality of our air, land and water, and we are committed to complying fully and transparently with all applicable laws and regulations.”

Suzanne Powers, a compliance officer with the EPA, said the company came into compliance by reporting the releases that continue to occur. But instead of reporting on a daily basis, she said, the company has obtained a type of continuing release report, good for a year.

As for the released chemicals, she said “they fall through the crack a little bit in terms of the Clean Air Act and how they’re regulated.”

That’s because several of the chemicals do not fall under the priority pollutants category, EPA spokesman Mark MacIntyre said.

Monsanto has worked to improve air pollution controls at the plant, the company notes on its website, installing devices in 1987 and 2006 to limit emissions.

Several companies mine phosphate ore in southeastern Idaho. Monsanto refines the material that goes into a variety of products, including herbicides, fire retardant and aviation fluids.

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