FMC Fact Sheet | Region 10 | US EPA

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FMC Fact Sheet

Resource Conservation and Recovery Act
Enforcement Case Against
the FMC Corporation

October 16, 1998
Today’s Action

Lois J. Schiffer, Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice, Carol Browner, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, and Chuck Clarke, Regional Administrator for Region 10 of EPA, today announced a Consent Decree settling an enforcement action pursuant to the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) against FMC Corporation arising out of its elemental phosphorus manufacturing operations in Pocatello, Idaho.

The Consent Decree, signed by officials at the U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. EPA and FMC, has been lodged with the U.S. District Court of Idaho, and is subject to a 30-day public review and comment period. Local public information meetings will be scheduled and advertised in the area to discuss the details of the Consent Decree during the comment period. After considering public comment, EPA and DOJ will ask that this Consent Decree be entered by the U.S. District Court, and it will become effective upon signature by the U.S. District Court judge.

The claims involve a dozen serious violations of RCRA, including FMC’s placement of ignitable and reactive hazardous waste in surface impoundments, and the Company’s failure to upgrade or close impoundments that do not have federally required protective liners and leachate collection systems. FMC’s management of its phosphorus bearing waste in existing surface impoundments has resulted in pond fires and releases of toxic phosphine and hydrogen cyanide gases.

The injunctive relief required under the Consent Decree requires FMC to close these ponds, construct a treatment system to remove the hazardous characteristics of its waste, and to observe all RCRA requirements for the handling of these wastes prior to treatment.

The cash penalty of $11,864,800 is the largest civil penalty settlement ever obtained under RCRA, and reflects EPA’s commitment to deter environmental violations. The capital cost to remedy these hazardous waste management violations at the facility is approximately $93 million.

In determining the final penalty amount of $11,864,800, EPA took into account the Agency’s Supplemental Environmental Project (SEP) policy and FMC’s agreement to conduct SEPs that will result in pollution prevention above and beyond the requirements of environmental laws.

The Company has committed to implement fourteen SEPs, primarily addressing ongoing air emissions from the facility. FMC will invest approximately $65 million in additional capital costs to implement these projects.

The Consent Decree also requires FMC to develop and implement an environmental management system that will help ensure future compliance with environmental regulations.

FMC Facility

FMC is the world’s largest producer of elemental phosphorous, which is used in a variety of consumer products such as detergents, beverages, food, synthetic lubricants and pesticides. This case concerns the operations at the Pocatello Elemental Phosphorus Plant, a 1,400 acre facility located on privately-owned land within the Shoshone-Bannock Tribe’s Fort Hall Indian Reservation approximately 2.5 miles northwest of Pocatello in Southeast Idaho.

FMC has operated at the present site since 1949; raw materials used by FMC in its annual production of approximately 250 million pounds of elemental phosphorus include phosphate ore, coke and silica. The primary by-products from the production process are slag, ferrophos, carbon monoxide and several aqueous streams (including wastewater/solids containing phosphorus, precipitator slurry, calciner water/solids and industrial wastewater).

The bulk of the wastes generated from the ore processing are considered hazardous waste, and are managed in large ponds, called surface impoundments, which are subject to regulations under the RCRA. Sediments in these ponds burn vigorously and persistently when exposed to the air, and numerous fires have been documented at these ponds in the past. These wastes are also hazardous because, when mixed with water, they generate phosphine, a highly toxic gas.

Benefits to the Environment

In addition to paying a record civil penalty of nearly $12 million, FMC has agreed to address the problems at the facility on a specified schedule as part of a comprehensive injunctive relief program that will bring the facility into compliance.

As further described on pages 4 through 7, FMC will close the illegal surface impoundments currently used to store/ manage hazardous ignitable and reactive phosphorus wastes.

FMC will also construct a waste treatment plant to treat the facility’s phosphorus waste so that it is no longer ignitable and reactive and will not leach metals in dangerous concentrations. FMC will install plant-wide secondary containment upgrades for all pipes, tanks, and other units handling reactive or ignitable wastes in order to provide additional protection against releases due to leaks.

The Company has also committed to perform fourteen Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEPs), thirteen of which will significantly improve air quality in the Pocatello region. These controls are expected to reduce annual particulate emissions from slag handling and other operations at the facility; these air quality controls are expected to reduce particulate emissions to the air by 67%, a reduction of approximately 436 tons of particulate per year. These projects are described in greater detail on page 7 of this fact sheet.

As the fourteenth SEP, FMC will fund a public health assessment and education program to investigate the effects of contaminants generated by the FMC facility on human health and the environment within Tribal lands that might affect the health of Fort Hall community members. This SEP will also assess the impacts of Company practices on Tribal cultural customs involving the use and consumption of native plants and animals.

Summary of Violations

Violations at the FMC facility result primarily from the Company’s failure to properly manage its phosphorus bearing waste as an ignitable/reactive hazardous waste and to close surface impoundments that do not meet minimum technical requirements. The violations are described below.

Specific Violations Alleged

EPA contends that FMC:

(1) failed to determine if its generated wastes are ignitable or reactive hazardous waste;
(2) placed ignitable and/or reactive hazardous waste in surface impoundments without preventing conditions that may cause the waste to ignite or react;
(3) failed to cease the receipt, treatment or storage of hazardous waste in surface impoundments not meeting minimum technology requirements as required;
(4) failed to submit timely RCRA Part A permit applications for surface impoundments and a waste management unit;
(5) failed to submit timely surface impoundment closure plans;
(6) failed to submit a timely revised Part A permit application prior to the start of treatment of contaminated air pollution control filters (Anderson filter media);
(7) treated hazardous waste in the furnace slurry pots without a permit;
(8) failed to install secondary containment for tanks and pipes, as required;
(9) failed to ensure that workers kept containers storing hazardous waste closed when not adding or removing waste;
(10) failed to ensure that containers used to store hazardous waste in satellite accumulation areas were under the control of an operator;
(11) failed to obtain a RCRA research demonstration and development permit for a unit treating wastewater from the production of elemental phosphorus; and
(12) failed to fully comply with groundwater monitoring requirements.

Terms of the Consent Decree

The Consent Decree provides for the payment of a cash penalty of $11,864,800, compliance with applicable RCRA requirements on a specified schedule, performance of fourteen SEPs, and implementation of an environmental management system that will help ensure compliance with environmental requirements. The Consent Decree imposes detailed reporting obligations on FMC regarding its implementation of the injunctive relief, and requires reporting of any noncompliance. Failure to comply with the terms of the Consent Decree will subject FMC to substantial stipulated monetary penalties.

Injunctive Relief

The injunctive relief required by the Consent Decree will result in dramatic changes in facility operations. In addition to the injunctive relief required to achieve compliance, as summarized below, the Consent Decree requires FMC to establish an environmental management system that addresses the twelve key criteria for environmental management systems established by National Enforcement Investigations Center for compliance assurance.

1) Closure of Waste Ponds and Other Illegal Units

The Decree requires FMC to cease discharging waste to surface impoundments (ponds) that do not meet minimal technological requirements (MTRs) for liners and leachate collection. These discharges have already ceased for all but the facility’s Phase IV ponds, and under the Consent Decree all discharges to those ponds must stop by December 1, 1998.

The Decree requires FMC to submit closure plans on a specified schedule for the ponds that do not meet minimum technological requirements (MTR) and close them in accordance with EPA approved closure plans. The Decree also specifies that the closure cap design for Phase IV ponds and Ponds 15S and 16S include a seven-foot deep soil capillary barrier with leak detection, temperature and pressure monitoring in addition to a standard cap. These ponds received largely untreated ignitable/reactive wastes, and the pond sediments have relatively high phosphorus concentrations. For Ponds 8E and 9E, the Decree requires a standard RCRA cap plus temperature and pressure monitoring and gas collection systems that will detect and address any buildup of gas that may occur. Pond 8E contains treated waste with lower phosphorus concentrations, and Pond 9E sediments have been largely removed.

The Consent Decree also requires the installation of an interim cover on the slag pit sump before final closure. The slag pit sump received furnace building wash water which contains cadmium above RCRA regulatory limits. Final closure of this unit will not be required before installation of slag ladling (one of the SEPs described below) is completed in the year 2000, because the cap may need to be removed to accommodate changes necessary to implement slag ladling.

Finally, the Decree requires closure of the scrubber blowdown waste treatment unit, waste management unit #12, and the Anderson Filter Media Washing Unit #13 within 180 days of EPA approval of the closure plan. These storage and treatment units were operated without a permit and are subject to EPA closure requirements.

2) Deactivation of Ignitable and Reactive Hazardous Waste

FMC is in the process of designing a waste treatment plant that will produce a treated waste that meets RCRA land disposal restrictions (LDRs) and will not be ignitable or reactive. Land disposal restrictions for FMC’s mineral processing wastes were finalized by EPA in the Phase IV LDR rule on May 26, 1998. The treatment plant is referred to in the Decree as the “LDR treatment system.

The Decree requires that the LDR treatment system must be built and operational by May 1, 2002. It also requires that the system include an off-gas treatment system, which will significantly reduce emissions of toxic gases from FMC’s phosphorus waste streams currently being released at the facility.

Because it is expected that issuance of a permit for this plant will not occur in time to complete construction before May 1, 2002, the Decree requires FMC to seek interim status approval for the addition of the LDR treatment system under 40 C.F.R. 270.72, and to provide documentation of direct human inhalation risks as part of the design information and operating plan it must submit to EPA for approval before startup.

FMC must also submit and obtain EPA approval of an operating plan and design features before operation of the LDR treatment system can start. The information must include critical operating parameters, automatic waste feed cutoff limits, and identification of all compounds that have the potential to be in the stack emissions. FMC must demonstrate to EPA’s satisfaction that the system can deactivate the waste, and that operation of the system won’t result in unacceptable inhalation risks. Before EPA approves the interim status operating plan and design documents, the public will be provided with an opportunity to comment on the design documents and performance information, the operating plan, and all the supporting documentation. The Decree further requires FMC to submit a RCRA Part B application, which will include an additional risk assessment and a further opportunity for public comment.

In order to ensure compliance with RCRA regulations and EPA guidance, the Decree specifies that the treated waste must not release phosphine and hydrogen cyanide to the ambient air in concentrations exceeding 0.3 parts per million (ppm) phosphine and 10.0 ppm hydrogen cyanide, standards which are more protective than currently promulgated OSHA standards for worker protection. Similarly, to ensure adequate treatment for ignitability, the Decree requires that the treated waste must be tested in accordance with approved EPA testing methods to determine if it is ignitable.

Under the Decree, FMC is also required to stabilize the waste by permanently and irreversibly bonding the waste into the molecular structure of a solid product such that the treated waste will not undergo changes that cause it to release toxic gases in excess of the limits identified above or leach heavy metals in concentrations that exceed LDR standards. This requirement was included to ensure that treatment is not temporary.

3) Interim Pond Management

The Decree establishes a compliance schedule for treating the ignitable and reactive hazardous waste streams currently being discharged to ponds at the facility. FMC is currently constructing for interim use a double-lined pond meeting all of RCRA’s minimum technological requirements to handle its wastes while the illegal ponds are being closed and before the LDR treatment system is on-line. The Consent Decree allows FMC to discharge its phosphorus bearing waste to ponds 17 and 18, and to its existing MTR Pond 16S until May 26, 2002 when the LDR treatment system is required to be on-line, provided that:

(1) the ponds are otherwise in compliance with RCRA;
(2) FMC is in compliance with schedules and requirements for the LDR treatment system; and
(3) FMC complies with the pond management plan.

The Pond Management Plan is incorporated by reference into the Consent Decree and is fully enforceable. Developed in consultation with the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, it will ensure that the ponds are managed in a manner that will protect the environment and public health. It requires, among other things, that FMC:

(1) inspect the ponds every 4 hours around the clock for conditions that may cause fires;
(2) install monitors around the ponds that will continuously measure phosphine and hydrogen cyanide;
(3) install electronic level monitoring and alarm devices and flow meters to manage pond water levels to prevent fires;
(4) monitor at a number of specified points along the facility fence line for phosphine and hydrogen cyanide, and monitor off-site in the event that phosphine or hydrogen cyanide exceeds specified concentrations that could pose a risk to individuals off-site;
(5) coordinate evacuation of any off-site area with local emergency response officials in the event phosphine or hydrogen cyanide is detected off-site at concentrations exceeding acute exposure guideline limits;
(6) install and maintain netting or “bird balls” over the ponds that are not being closed in 1999 to keep birds out;
(7) remove any sediment that accumulates in Pond 18 and treat it in the LDR treatment system;
(8) remove and treat any sediment that accumulates in Pond 17 from waste that is not treated in accordance with specified criteria designed to render the waste non-ignitable; and
(9) expand existing fencing to include entire pond area.

4) Plant Upgrades and Slurry Pots

The Decree requires FMC to install secondary containment by September 30, 1999; costs of the upgrades are expected to cost approximately $7 million. The Consent Decree requires FMC to convey phosphorus bearing wastes from tanks in the furnace building and the phos dock to the LDR treatment system for immediate treatment upon startup of that system. Finally, FMC is required to meet the RCRA conditions for treatment of the hazardous precipitator dust in the furnace building slurry pots (tanks into which the dust is placed to be mixed with lime and water to initiate treatment of the hazardous nature of the dust).

Supplemental Environmental Projects --Air Quality Issues

FMC has committed to implement fourteen SEPs, the first thirteen projects being undertaken to reduce emissions of particulate matter less than or equal to 10 microns (PM-10), as described above. There are currently no federally enforceable limits on PM-10 emissions from the FMC Pocatello facility; the projects listed are estimated to reduce emissions of PM-10 by 67% as compared with FMC’s current PM-10 emissions, a reduction of approximately 436 tons per year. In general, most of these reductions will be achieved well before EPA’s issuance of the Federal Implementation Plan, intended to regulate such air pollution emissions, in mid 2000. The thirteen SEPs, described below, are designed to reduce both process-related and fugitive particulate emissions from the ongoing FMC facility operations, above and beyond current equipment and practices:

(1) Slag handling process improvements to allow handling in molten state;
(2) Redirection of the secondary condenser flare and ground pit flare emissions to an enclosed combustion device, and installation of a high efficiency air scrubber to remove particulates;
(3) Calciner furnace scrubber improvements;
(4) Ducting improvements to collect fumes from the phosphorus loading dock area;
(5) Control improvements to minimize off-gassing of the furnace flares to the atmosphere;
(6) Ventilation and “housekeeping” practice improvements to minimize fugitive dust emissions from the furnace burden level;
(7) Furnace upgrades to allow quicker recovery of optimum performance levels after equipment malfunctions;
(8) Baghouse fugitive dust efficiency improvements;
(9) Replacement of the existing coke dust baghouse to double ventilation volume;
(10) Redesign/replacement of existing dust silo baghouse;
(11) Dedicated dust suppression efforts in the outdoor area of the facility to minimize fugitive emissions;
(12) Dedicated dust suppression efforts for the ore stockpile and shale handling areas; and
(13) Enclosure of the ground level storage areas for ore nodules.

Because controls on PM-10 emissions from the FMC facility are needed for Pocatello/Fort Hall area to meet the National Ambient Air Quality Standard for PM-10, EPA is in the process of drafting a Federal Implementation Plan (FIP) under the federal Clean Air Act that will establish federally enforceable emission limits to maintain proper operation of control equipment and process changes as implemented under these SEPs. Under a separate settlement agreement between EPA and the Portneuf Environmental Council (a citizens group in the Pocatello area), EPA has agreed to propose a FIP for FMC no later than January 31, 1999. EPA has also agreed in that settlement agreement to take action to finalize the FIP no later than July 31, 2000.

Region 10 views the installation of air quality controls at the FMC facility by way of the RCRA SEPs as a form of accelerated compliance with anticipated FIP requirements. Region 10 has been developing PM-10 emission limits for FMC as part of a FIP since the early 1990s, and EPA is now legally committed to promulgate a FIP for FMC no later than July 31, 2000. FMC’s agreement to implement a portion of the PM-10 controls as SEPs within the RCRA Consent Decree accelerates the effective date of air pollution control compliance with a proposed FIP by at least two years.

Supplemental Environmental Projects: Environmental Health Assessment

The fourteenth project is the Fort Hall Environmental Health Assessment which addresses the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes’ concern about the impact of releases from RCRA hazardous waste management units and other sources on the health and cultural practices of the residents of the Fort Hall Reservation. FMC has agreed to spend a minimum of $1,650,000 to conduct an environment and human health impact study based on the Tribes’ health and exposure concerns, and to implement a communication and education program to inform the community of study results and recommendations.

Each of the SEPs has a separate compliance schedule with enforceable milestones. Failure to comply with the milestones subjects FMC to the stipulated penalties specified in the Consent Decree. EPA may allow substitution of an alternative SEP after a finding of economic or technical infeasibility.

For More Information About the Consent Decree, Contact:
Michael Gordon, U.S.. Department of Justice (202) 514-2008
Andy Boyd, U.S. EPA Region 10, (206) 553-1222, or (800) 424-4372, extension 1222

For Information about Upcoming Public Meetings, Contact:
Misha Vakoc, U.S. EPA Region 10 (206) 553-8578 or (800) 424-4372, extension 8578

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