Eastman Chemical Resins has agreed to pay a $2.4 million fine to the US EPA and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection for alleged pollution of the Monongahela River, unpermitted discharges of oil, and violations of the federal Clean Air and Clean Water acts at a site in Allegheny County.
The fine is outlined in a proposed consent decree lodged in federal court in Pittsburgh for violations that occurred since 2017 at the company’s 56-acre manufacturing facility in West Elizabeth, along the Monongahela River. The site is now owned and operated by Synthomer Jefferson Hills, LLC.
In a statement, a spokeswoman for Eastman said, “Synthomer will be responsible for future compliance with applicable environmental laws through the implementation of this Consent Decree” and said the agreement “is not expected to have a material impact on Eastman’s financial condition, results of operations, or cash flows.”
Synthomer Jefferson Hills, LLC could not be reached for comment.
“Compliance with our nation’s laws that protect the environment and the health of our communities is an obligation companies can’t take lightly,” said EPA Regional Administrator Adam Ortiz in a statement. “The actions required by this settlement will help ensure that the facility operates in a manner that is protective of environmental resources and the health of nearby communities.”
Pennsylvania DEP Acting Secretary Rich Negrin said in a statement, “Pennsylvanians have a right enshrined in the state constitution to clean air and pure water, and we will always pursue operators that violate that right and hold polluters accountable.”
As part of the settlement, Synthomer has agreed to take actions to prevent future violations, including a comprehensive review of stormwater discharges from the site and groundwater contamination at the site.
The Clean Water Act violations include discharges that exceeded allowable limits of zinc, xylene and other pollutants, the EPA said in a statement.
A complaint by the EPA alleged that Eastman failed to “label containers of hazardous waste as required; [failed] to keep containers of hazardous waste closed” and that the facility failed to “minimize the possibility of any unplanned sudden or non-sudden release of hazardous waste or hazardous waste constituents.”
According to records included in the consent decree, EPA inspectors in 2018 found evidence of leaks and spills of several resins and other chemicals processed at the site, including styrene. They also encountered a staircase covered with “a thick, tacky, semi-liquid material, from which a strong chemical smell was emanating,” cracks in a containment area, and a spill near a pipe where hazardous waste is transferred.
The penalty will be divided equally between the federal and state agencies.
The proposed consent decree is subject to a 30-day public comment period and approval by the federal court.