EPA Announces Largest Settlement Ever Under Agency's Audit Policy

Invista will pay a $1.7 million civil penalty.

Invista will pay a $1.7 million civil penalty and spend up to $500 million to correct self-reported environmental violations discovered at facilities in seven states, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Justice Department announced on April 13. The company disclosed more than 680 violations of water, air, hazardous waste, emergency planning and preparedness, and pesticide regulations to EPA after auditing 12 facilities it acquired from DuPont in 2004. Invista is a multi-national manufacturer of a wide range of polymer-based fibers, including Lycra, Stainmaster and Coolmax.

This is the largest settlement under EPA's audit policy, which was launched in 1995. The policy provides incentives to companies that voluntarily discover, promptly disclose, and expeditiously correct environmental violations. The companies must also take steps to prevent future violations. EPA may reduce or waive penalties for certain violations if the facility meets the conditions of the policy. Consistent with the audit policy, EPA waived a large portion of the penalty in this case.

EPA's experience with Invista guided the development of a national interim audit policy for new owners -- announced in August 2008 -- designed to encourage other new owners to make a "clean start" at their recently acquired facilities.

"By correcting these violations, Invista will reduce harmful air pollution by nearly 10,000 tons per year" said Catherine R. McCabe, acting assistant administrator of EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. The emission reductions resulting from correcting these violations will result in estimated annual human health benefits valued at over $325 million, including 30 fewer premature deaths per year, 2,000 fewer days/year when people would miss school or work, and over 9,000 fewer cases of upper and lower respiratory symptoms.

As part of its corrective action requirements agreed to in the settlement, Invista will install pollution control equipment to treat air pollutants at its Seaford, Del.; Camden, S.C.; Chattanooga, Tenn.; and Victoria, Texas facilities. The company has also applied for applicable air and water permits, has installed adequate secondary containment for oil storage areas, and has notified state and local emergency planning and response organizations of the presence of hazardous substances.

To ensure continued compliance and minimization of the benzene wastes generated at the Victoria and Orange, Texas facilities, Invista is required under the settlement to either upgrade control equipment or make major changes to its processes used to handle these wastes. EPA estimates that these actions will reduce air emissions of benzene by more than nine tons annually, and eliminate 25 to 750 tons per year of benzene from wastewater.

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