Inhance Technologies LLC, formerly known as Fluoro-Seal International, L.P., headquartered in Houston, Texas, has agreed to pay a $59,000 civil penalty and spend a minimum of $180,000 on systems to recycle hazardous hydrogen fluoride gas, as part of a settlement of the company’s alleged violations of the federal Clean Air Act (CAA) and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) involving five of its facilities in Illinois, Iowa and Missouri.
This resolution stems from an EPA compliance inspection of the company’s Mount Pleasant, Iowa, facility in November 2010. The inspection revealed that the facility had neither implemented a Risk Management Program nor had it filed a Risk Management Plan with EPA, despite the facility’s use of anhydrous hydrogen fluoride in multiple cylinders in a manner that could result in a release of the regulatory 1,000-pound threshold. Anhydrous hydrogen fluoride is an extremely toxic gas that causes severe burns and can be fatal upon short exposure.
Risk management programs and plans are required by the Clean Air Act when industries use or store certain types of hazardous or potentially hazardous chemicals beyond specified threshold amounts. The programs and plans are designed to protect employees, emergency responders and surrounding communities from chemical accidents, disasters and related harm.
Subsequent inspections and information requests by EPA at Inhance Technologies’ facilities in Centerville, Iowa; and Kansas City and St. Louis, Mo., revealed those facilities also had failed to implement Risk Management Programs or file Risk Management Plans related to their use of anhydrous hydrogen fluoride.
Inspections revealed that Inhance Technologies’ facilities in Mount Pleasant and Centerville, Iowa; and Kansas City and St. Louis, Mo. — as well as a fifth facility, in West Chicago, Ill. — also failed to file emergency and hazardous chemical inventory forms with state and local emergency responders, disclosing the amounts of aluminum oxide present at the facilities. Such forms are required by the federal Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA), which was similarly designed to protect the public and enhance the preparedness levels of emergency responders.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has also inspected Inhance Technologies’ St. Louis, Mt. Pleasant, and Centerville facilities and identified violations of occupational safety and health standards.
Inhance Technologies has chosen to maintain quantities of anhydrous hydrogen fluoride below the regulatory threshold. If its facilities use more than the regulatory threshold in the future, they will develop and implement Risk Management Programs and file Risk Management Plans as required by law.
In addition, the company will spend at least $180,000 to implement new steps to reduce air pollution by recycling hazardous hydrogen fluoride gas at the five facilities.
“This voluntary resolution puts Inhance Technologies on an enforceable path toward complying with vital public-health and worker-protection laws,” said EPA Regional Administrator Karl Brooks. “Firms that store and handle substantial quantities of these hazardous chemicals need to work with EPA and first responders to help make sure their everyday manufacturing processes safeguard both their own employees and the communities where they do business.”