Fertilizer Manufacturer Fined for Improperly Disposing of Hazardous Wastes

Aug. 6, 2010
Phosphoric acid and ammoniated fertilizer manufacturer, CF Industries Inc., willl spend $12 million to implement facility-wide operational changes.

CF Industries Inc. (CFI) has agreed to spend $12 million to implement facility-wide operational changes to reduce and properly manage hazardous wastes generated at its Plant City, Fla., phosphoric acid and ammoniated fertilizer manufacturing facility, the Justice Department and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on August 5.

The settlement resolves CFI's Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) violations and requires the company to pay a civil penalty of $701,500 and provide $163.5 million in financial assurances to guarantee appropriate closure and long-term care of the facility. This is the first case concluded under EPA's National Enforcement Initiative for Mining and Mineral Processing.

CFI, a manufacturer of phosphate and nitrogen fertilizers, operates a 400-acre phosphogypsum stack and associated ponds for storing mineral processing wastes from its phosphoric acid production operations, in which the company was commingling hazardous wastes from its fertilizer plant. Between December 2004 and January 2005, inspectors from EPA and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection discovered that CFI was treating, storing and disposing of hazardous wastes in its stack and associated ponds without a permit and failing to meet land disposal restrictions required under RCRA, which addresses the appropriate handling, storage and disposal of hazardous wastes. The manufacturer also had failed provide adequate financial assurance for closure, long-term care and third-party liability for its facility.

Phosphoric acid is primarily used for agricultural chemical fertilizers. In a national enforcement effort, EPA has focused on compliance in the phosphoric acid industry because of the high risk of releases of acidic wastewaters at these facilities, which can cause groundwater contamination and fish kills. Examples include a 65 million gallon release of acidic wastewaters from the Mosaic Riverview facility into Tampa Bay which led to a massive local fish kill. In addition, the state of Florida has incurred nearly $200 million in clean-up costs for treatment of acidic wastewaters at the bankrupt Mulberry Phosphates Piney Point facility in Polk County, Fla. A 2007 incident at the Agrifos phosphoric acid facility in Houston released 50 million gallons of acidic wastewaters into the Houston Ship Channel.

As part of the agreement, CFI has implemented comprehensive waste containment and spill prevention measures to better manage its wastes; has reconfigured scrubbers to eliminate all corrosive fertilizer wastewaters and reduce ammonia releases to the environment; and has constructed a treatment system for hazardous wastes generated in fertilizer operations. CFI additionally has completed the full site investigation also required under the settlement to assess the degree of environmental contamination emanating from the phosphogypsum stacks and ponds, and will take steps to remove and treat contaminated soils.

Mining and mineral processing facilities generate more toxic and hazardous waste than any other industrial sector, based on EPAs Toxic Release Inventory. If not properly managed, these facilities pose a high risk to human health and the environment. Since 2003, EPA has been investigating a total of twenty phosphoric acid facilities in seven states.

"Wastes from mineral processing and associated fertilizer production can pose a serious risk to our nations drinking water and the health of families," said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. "Mining and mineral processing is one of our National Enforcement Initiatives and we are working to minimize or eliminate risks to communities and the environment from illegal hazardous waste operations at phosphoric acid and other high risk mineral processing facilities."

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