Cargill, Inc. has reached a settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over allegations that the privately-held agribusiness company violated terms of the Clean Air Act at an Iowa manufacturing facility.
The settlement comes after a nearly eight-year investigation that started when EPA inspectors found that Cargill failed to comply with emissions standards for hazardous pollutants at a vitamin-E plant in Eddyville, Iowa.
Under its terms, Cargill will pay a $110,000 civil penalty, while also agreeing to a special project aimed at avoiding future problems for one year.
The project will be audited by a third-party.
“Cargill fully cooperated with the investigation which began in 2007 and promptly addressed the alleged violations,” said Cargill external communications manager Kelly Sheehan in an email. “Cargill remains committed to preserving and protecting the air, water and other natural resources within our communities.”
Specifically, the facility allegedly failed to comply with regulations designed to prevent pollutants from leaking into the air, while also failing to identify waste water as subject to pollution control requirements. Hazardous pollutants used at the facility include methanol, methyl tertiary butyl ether and formaldehyde.
The National Cancer Institute cites formaldehyde as a potential cancer-causing chemical.
In addition to the agreed upon terms of the settlement, Cargill will also spend at least $155,000 on mechanical improvements at the Eddyville facility. The improvements will replace seals on certain pumps “that have the potential to leak hazardous air pollutants” and must be made within a year, according to the EPA.
“We are particularly pleased that Cargill has proposed to conduct the supplemental project to incorporate seamless technology at the facility, which should bear benefits in terms of safety and health for employees and the community, and for the environment,” said EPA public affairs specialist Chris Whitley in an email.
While Whitley said the Eddyville Vitamin-E facility had no prior history of environmental violations, several other Cargill operations have been penalized in the past five years, EPA records show.
Last year, the EPA issued a penalty of more than $52,000 for Clean Air Act violations at a Cargill texturizing plant in Hammond, Ind. Pollutants involved in that case included sulfur dioxide and volatile organic compounds.
Also last year, the EPA issued a penalty of more than $187,000 for Clean Water Act violations at two Cargill oil storage facilities in Nebraska and Iowa. A news release describes that EPA issued the penalty because both plants failed to have a Facility Response Plan – a comprehensive worst-case scenario emergency strategy – in place for oil discharges.
“The lack of a Facility Response Plan for these facilities can have serious consequences for humans and the environment in the case of a spill,” the news release stated.
Overall, EPA records show the agency has taken formal enforcement actions against at least 10 Cargill operations over the past five years. At least six Cargill facilities have current violations.
The EPA conducts routine compliance inspections that include both on-site visual inspection and a review of key records facilities are legally required to maintain. The agency updates a publicly accessible database where individuals can look up facility violations by location or by facility name.
“EPA’s inspections of facilities may vary, depending on the type of facility and the nature of the inspection,” said Whitley.