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Release Date: 8/29/2000
Contact Information: David Sternberg (215) 814-5548

David Sternberg, 215-814-5548

BALTIMORE - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has sued Westvaco Corp. over air pollution from the company’s pulp and paper mills in Luke, Md. and Beryl, W. Va. The complaint, filed by the U.S. Attorney’s office in federal court in Baltimore, alleges several Clean Air Act violations, including:

      - Causing large increases in nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and particulate matter emissions by expanding the Luke mill without obtaining permits required under federal and state regulations.

- Failing to install necessary pollution controls.

- Violating limits on visible emissions.

- Failing to meet pollution standards for brown-stock washer systems.

The government seeks a court order requiring the company to comply with the Clean Air Act, including requirements for permits and air pollution control equipment. The complaint also seeks a civil penalty of up to $27,500 per day for each violation.

“We are bringing this case in federal court to protect the health of more than 4.2 million Marylanders who are currently breathing unhealthy air. EPA is committed to vigorous enforcement of the law so that all Americans have healthy air to breathe,” said EPA Regional Administrator Bradley M. Campbell.

Under the Clean Air Act, industrial polluters are permitted to increase emissions only if they also take steps to prevent significant deterioration of air quality. Facilities are required to review the impacts of large pollution increases and to install necessary air pollution control equipment.

Westvaco’s Luke mill processes wood into pulp and paper, and the facilities in Beryl include a wood yard and lime kiln. According to EPA, Westvaco has been continuously violating federal and state requirements since installing two batch pulp digesters and expanding the mill in the 1980s. The expansion included the installation of a hardwood bleach line, rebuilding paper machines, and increasing the capacity of an electricity generating turbine.

In 1998, the Luke mill discharged 19,886 tons of sulfur dioxide, 5,036 tons of nitrogen oxides, 291 tons of carbon monoxide, 593 tons of particulate matter, and 663 tons of volatile organic compounds.

In the complaint, EPA is seeking pollution controls that would reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides by 90 percent.

Nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide contribute to acid rain, which destroys lakes, rivers, streams, and crops. Nitrogen oxides also contribute to ground-level ozone pollution, or smog, which aggravates asthma, emphysema and other respiratory problems. Particulate pollution has been linked to respiratory disease. More than 4.2 million Marylanders are currently breathing air that doesn’t meet federal health standards.