DuPont, Lucite Agree to Pay $2 M for Clean Air Violations

DuPont and Lucite International Inc. have agreed to pay a $2 million civil penalty to settle Clean Air Act violations at a sulfuric acid plant in Belle, W. Va., the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Justice Department, and the state of West Virginia announced April 20.

The sulfuric acid plant is located on a 100-acre chemical manufacturing complex along the Kanawha River. The plant is owned by Lucite and operated by DuPont. The companies will pay $1 million to the United States and $1 million to the state of West Virginia. Further, the companies chose to shut down the sulfuric-acid manufacturing unit of a larger chemical facility at the site by April 1, 2010, and the settlement confirms this agreement. 

"The actions taken as part of this settlement will reduce emissions of air pollutants by more than 1,000 tons each year," said Catherine McCabe, acting assistant administrator for the EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.

In a joint complaint, filed concurrently with the consent decree, the United States and West Virginia allege that the companies made modifications to their plant in 1996 without first obtaining pre-construction permits and installing required pollution control equipment. The Clean Air Act requires major sources of air pollution to obtain such permits before making changes that would result in a significant emissions increase of any pollutant.

The Belle sulfuric acid plant burns sulfuric acid sludge, which creates sulfur dioxide (SO2). Most of the SO2 is converted to sulfuric acid and recovered, but a portion of the chemical is emitted to the atmosphere. The plant also emits sulfuric acid mist, nitrogen dioxide, and carbon monoxide.

Sulfuric acid is widely used for ore processing, fertilizer manufacturing, oil refining, wastewater processing, and chemical synthesis.