Invista Self-reports Violations at Former DuPont Facilities

Invista S.à.r.l. will pay a $1.7 million civil penalty and spend up to an estimated $500 million to correct self-reported environmental violations discovered at facilities in seven states, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 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.

"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. "Invista is making a clean start in a settlement that achieves significant environmental benefits, and we encourage other new owners to do the same."

"This settlement is a significant achievement, as it will reduce air pollution in numerous communities, and demonstrates the United States' commitment to ensuring that all facility owners come into compliance with environmental requirements," said John C. Cruden, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division. "This settlement reflects an effective use of EPA's audit policy and the value of companies performing audits and working with the United States to correct violations found at their facilities."

The settlement resolves violations disclosed under Invista's corporate audit agreement with EPA. Invista conducted 45 separate audits of environmental practices and compliance at facilities located in Seaford, Del.; Athens, Calhoun, and Dalton, Ga.; Kinston, N.C.; Camden, S.C.; Chattanooga, Tenn.; LaPorte, Orange, and Victoria, Texas; and Martinsville and Waynesboro, Va.

"This agreement affirms the work we have already done to improve environmental compliance at these plants and enables us, as a new owner, to finish correcting the prior owner's noncompliance," said David Dotson, Invista senior vice president for operations. "We are pleased to have a clear path forward to closing out these legacy issues."

Shortly after taking ownership of the facilities from DuPont in 2004, Invista discovered significant and widespread environmental noncompliance at certain plants. Faced with these serious issues, INVISTA acted responsibly and moved promptly to identify and disclose violations to regulators and systematically correct them to ensure compliance and protect employees, the public and the environment.

"We discontinued unsafe practices and took noncompliant equipment out of service, spending millions of dollars to fix equipment and ensure employees and the community were protected," said Dotson.

As part of its corrective action requirements, 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 must either upgrade control equipment or make major changes to its processes. 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.

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. Consistent with the audit policy, the agency waived a large portion of the penalty in this case.

The states of Delaware and South Carolina, and the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Air Pollution Control Board in Tennessee have also joined in today's consent decree and will share portions of the civil penalty with EPA.

As specified in the agreement by which DuPont sold these assets to Invista, DuPont is responsible for costs associated with correcting its noncompliance.

In March 2008, Invista filed a lawsuit in federal court in New York seeking damages and a court order requiring DuPont to fulfill its contractual obligations. The lawsuit seeks compensatory damages in excess of $800 million, plus punitive damages because DuPont knew of several safety and environmental violations that placed its employees and the public at risk, but took no action to rectify them or disclose them to Invista. On March 30, 2009, the court denied DuPont's motion to dismiss this lawsuit, allowing all elements of the case to continue, including Invista's pursuit of punitive damages.