1995 News Releases
WITCO, CATALYST TO PAY $700,000 PENALTY, PREVENT POLLUTION AT REFINERY
Release Date: 4/5/1995
Contact Information: Arnold Robbins, U.S. EPA, (415) 744-1520 Jim Sweeney, DOJ, (202) 514-2008 TDD: (202) 514-1888
Released jointly by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the
U.S. Department of Justice
(San Francisco) -- Witco Corp., a California refinery, and
Catalyst Golden Bear Cogeneration Partnership, a former operator of a
facility that provided heat to Witco's Oildale refinery, agreed today
to pay a $700,000 penalty to settle federal pollution charges, the
Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
(U.S. EPA) said. The charges stemmed from Witco's repeated violations
of clean air, water, and hazardous waste laws, including endangering a
source of drinking water for the community of Oildale.
Witco, in a consent decree filed by the Department of Justice on
behalf of the U.S. EPA, also agreed to install millions of dollars
worth of pollution control equipment at its Oildale refinery near
Bakersfield, Calif., and to study the extent of soil and groundwater
contamination in the vicinity of its refinery.
The consent decree settles a lawsuit initiated in October 1992 in
U.S. District Court in Fresno, California, in which the U.S. EPA had
charged Witco with 14 counts of violating the Clean Air Act, the Safe
Drinking Water Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.
Catalyst was charged with two counts of violating the Clean Air Act.
"This settlement not only shows that pollution doesn't pay, it
shows that there's a better way -- to prevent pollution in the first
place," said John Wise, deputy regional administrator of U.S. EPA's
western regional office. "Under this settlement, Witco is committed
to making its refinery a model of pollution prevention for the oil
Lois Schiffer, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the
Department of Justice's Environment and Natural Resources Division,
said, "Make no mistake, we are committed to enforcing the
environmental laws of the land."
"The real winners today are the people of Oildale. They can live
with less threat, now that Witco has agreed to change its way of doing
business," Schiffer added.
The complaint charged that Witco and Catalyst violated the Clean
Air Act by emitting excessive amounts of nitrogen oxides -- a
precursor of smog -- into the air. Nitrogen oxides are a component of
ozone pollution, which causes health problems ranging from coughing,
wheezing, and eye irritation, to more serious lung infection and
permanent lung damage. The ozone pollution level in the San Joaquin
Valley, where Oildale is located, has been classified as "serious" by
U.S. EPA because it greatly exceeds the health standard set by the
Clean Air Act. Witco further violated the Clean Air Act by emitting
excessive amounts of hydrogen sulfide into the air and failing to
monitor or report those emissions to U.S. EPA.
Witco violated the Safe Drinking Water Act, the complaint said,
by dumping petroleum products such as lubricating oil into shallow
holes, or "dry wells," contaminating soil at least 120 feet below the
surface and endangering an aquifer used for drinking water by the city
of Oildale. Finally, it said Witco illegally disposed hazardous waste
solvents from the refinery's laboratory by discharging them into deep
injection wells, which violated the Resource Conservation and Recovery
The consent decree requires Witco to install a wastewater
recycling system at a cost of at least $2.25 million, and operate it
for at least ten years. The system, by reducing Witco's water usage
approximately 80 percent, will save more than 33 million gallons of
water a year and end the refinery's current practice of discharging
wastewater into deep injection wells. The wells must be closed and
the recycling system operating by June 1998. In the meantime, Witco
must take immediate steps to ensure that no additional hazardous waste
is discharged into the wells and train its employees concerning the
proper disposal of spent laboratory solvents.
In addition, Witco must immediately close its "dry wells" and
monitor soil and groundwater contamination. To prevent further air
pollution, Witco must install equipment to monitor and reduce the
hydrogen sulfide content of fuel gas burned at the refinery.
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