Hollingsworth & Vose Fiber Co. has agreed to pay $240,000 in penalties and fees to settle environmental violations relating to air pollution at its south Corvallis glass fiber plant going back nearly 20 years.
In a mutual agreement and final order announced Friday afternoon by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, H&V does not acknowledge any wrongdoing. However, it does stipulate to certain facts in the case and agrees to pay $187,742 in civil penalties plus another $57,526 in fees that it would have paid to DEQ if it had been operating under the proper permits.
As outlined in the document, the problem arose when Evanite Fiber Corp., the previous owner of the facility at 1115 S.E. Crystal Lake Drive, applied for permission to build a second glass fiber production plant on the site in 1995. Based on estimated pollution levels provided by Evanite, DEQ granted approval for the expansion in May 1996, about seven months before H&V purchased Evanite on Dec. 27 of that year.
The modified permit allowed Evanite — and later H&V — to discharge up to 98 tons of nitrogen oxide, 21 tons of carbon monoxide and 2.8 tons of gaseous fluorides each year at the south Corvallis site.
No testing for those emissions was required or performed at the plant from the completion of the expansion in 1998 until late 2014, when DEQ instructed H&V to check actual emission levels of those substances as part of a permit renewal process. The tests showed the company was exceeding the limit for two of those pollutants, spewing out 457 tons of carbon monoxide and 7.6 tons of fluorides in 2014.
“We don’t do our own emissions testing,” explained Jenny Root, an environmental law specialist with DEQ.
Instead, the regulatory agency allows companies to hire third-party contractors to do the testing, then analyzes the results to make sure they meet applicable standards. The agency also does some spot-checking to keep the process honest.
“There’s a certain percentage (of cases) where DEQ personnel go out to witness the testing and make sure it’s being done properly,” Root said.
The agreement requires H&V to obtain the proper permits, creates a schedule to bring the plant into compliance and sets interim emissions limits for carbon monoxide and fluoride.
Root said a public hearing would be scheduled to allow area residents to comment on the updated permit request.
The DEQ announcement did not say whether the excess emissions levels may have posed a health threat to people living near the plant, which is just south of downtown Corvallis and adjoins a residential neighborhood. Technical experts for the agency could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon.
In a press release issued Friday, Hollingsworth & Vose said it intends to work with Corvallis and DEQ officials to identify a suitable environmental mitigation project it could perform in lieu of paying part of its civil penalties in the case. If the proposal is approved by the DEQ, the company’s fines would be reduced by the dollar value of the project.
“H&V values its role in the Corvallis community, is committed to working with DEQ in a proactive, transparent manner to resolve the facility’s permitting status, and welcomes the opportunity for the public to participate in the public comment process,” the company said. “H&V will demonstrate that the facility meets the ambient air quality standards set by EPA and will bring the facility into full compliance with all air permitting regulations.”
H&V employs more than 140 people at its Corvallis facility, which makes glass fiber used in specialty battery separator materials and high-end air filtration systems.
The plant has been the site of other environmental problems in the past.
In another issue that predates the current ownership, the plant is subject to a long-running “pump and treat” cleanup program aimed at extracting toxic trichloroethylene from soil and groundwater at the site. An unknown quantity of TCE, a powerful industrial solvent, was spilled at the plant between 1975 and 1996, when Evanite was manufacturing plastic battery separator material there.
And late last year, H&V averted a possible lawsuit when it cleaned up a large amount of accumulated glass fiber from its wastewater treatment facility, located just across the Willamette River. An environmental watchdog group, Willamette Riverkeeper, had threatened to sue the company under the Clean Water Act if it didn’t take steps to prevent the material from washing into the river during high-water events.
Notes from FAN:
— This is the second incident in Oregon where an industry did not report its fluoride emissions. The first issue was Intel in Hillsboro, Oregon, which emitted fluoride from its large manufacturing site since 1978 but never informed the state’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) nor did the DEQ consider to ask -even though software manufacturing is a major source of fluorine entering the environment. See news report in The Oregonian, Intel has been emitting fluoride for years without state knowledge, permit, Sept 13, 2013.
— See chemicals from EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory reported by Hollingsworth & Vose from 1988 to 2009.
- January 2016. Fluoride Air Dispersion Modeling Report. Hollingsworth & Vose Fiber Company, by Golder Associates Inc. A description of “the modeling methodology and input data that was used to conduct ambient air modeling of HF and F for comparison to accepted risk -based chronic exposure thresholds at nearby residential locations (i.e. at locations where long term exposure could occur).”
- 2016. Report from H&V’s facility in Georgia: Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) Application. Hollingsworth & Vose Company, Hyalus, Inc. Facility. By Golder Associates Inc. “The Fluorides emission rate is a controlled emission rate based on 98% or better control of filterable fluoride particles. The facility is requesting a federally enforceable limit of 2.9 tons/year. Therefore, PSD permitting will not be applicable to Fluorides emissions (Table 2-2, page 11).”
- 2016. State of Oregon Department of Environmental Quality on Hollingsworth & Vose Fiber Company: Air Quality Questions and Answers.