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EPA enforcement in Texas continues to cut pollution

Release Date: 12/04/2008
Contact Information: Dave Bary or Tressa Tillman at 214-665-2200 or r6press@epa.gov

Polluters agree to spend $11.8 billion on environmental controls and cleanup nationwide

(Dallas, Texas – December 4, 2008) More than $11.8 billion in environmental improvements were secured and an estimated four billion pounds of pollution will be prevented as a result of enforcement actions by the Environmental Protection Agency this year. Both figures represent record highs for the agency.

Results for cases with facilities in Texas brought more than 223 million pounds of pollution reductions, more than $528 million in penalties and environmental improvements, and 206 concluded enforcement actions.

“Enforcement is a vital part of EPA’s commitment to protecting the environment and public health,” said EPA Regional Administrator Richard E. Greene. “As a result of these efforts, communities throughout Texas will benefit from less pollution and more investments by industry to better control pollutants. I commend the work of our staff and environmental partners on a job well done.”

EPA’s enforcement numbers were released today by its Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance as part of its fiscal year 2008 accomplishments report. The report outlines some of the agency’s notable achievements in the areas of civil and criminal enforcement, compliance assistance, public health, environmental justice and international cooperation.

A total of $565 million in environmental improvements, 437 million pounds in pollution reductions and two billion pounds of treated or disposed hazardous waste were realized across the region comprising Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.

Among the agency’s enforcement achievements involving facilities in Texas is the treatment and disposal of 1.7 billion pounds of hazardous waste from Agrifos Fertilizer, Inc. in Pasadena. EPA issued an Imminent and Substantial Endangerment Order to Agrifos and ExxonMobil to address long-term wastewater management and prevent future endangerment to human health and the environment.

Agrifos operates a mineral processing facility that extracts phosphorus from mineral ores for use in commercial fertilizer. The facility accumulated excessive amounts of acidic wastewater that threatened catastrophic failure of the impoundments. An abnormal amount of rainfall caused an excess of wastewater resulting in the failure of a portion of the retaining wall, which released wastewater into a county drainage ditch, Cotton Patch Bayou, and then into the Houston Ship Channel. The overflow released approximately 54 million gallons of wastewater, and at least one fish kill was reported in the bayou.

EPA also secured an agreement with ConocoPhillips to pay a $1.2 million civil penalty for Clean Water Act violations related to more than 2,000 effluent discharges from a petroleum refinery it operates in Borger, Texas. As a result of this case, the company will monitor surrounding waters, including Dixon Creek and the Canadian River, for selenium levels and accumulation of selenium in fish tissue. ConocoPhillips is also required to maintain controls put in place to minimize its selenium discharges and to correct whole effluent toxicity violations. Lastly, the company will perform a supplemental environmental project estimated to cost approximately $600,000, which will reduce the amount of solids discharged into local waterways during storm events.

In addition to enforcement actions, EPA provided help to more than 12,421 regional businesses and individuals in understanding and complying with environmental responsibilities during the past year.

The EPA enforcement program is a vital tool in ensuring compliance with the nation’s environmental laws and inspiring businesses, governments and others to focus on pollution prevention. Additional information on the 2008 enforcement and compliance results is available at http://www.epa.gov/earth1r6/6en/08-axns.htm.

To learn more about activities in EPA Region 6, please visit http://www.epa.gov/region6.

An EPA audio file is available at http://www.epa.gov/region6/6xa/audio.htm#audio120408_eoy_tx.

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