Enforcement

AL Solutions, Inc. Settlement

(WASHINGTON, DC - December 19, 2013)  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today that AL Solutions, a West Virginia-based metal recycler, has agreed to implement extensive, company-wide safeguards to prevent future accidental releases of hazardous chemicals from its facilities, resolving alleged Clean Air Act violations (CAA) stemming from an explosion at the company’s New Cumberland, W. Va. facility that killed three people.

Overview of Company

AL Solutions, Inc. is a general domestic corporation organized in the State of Delaware in 2006.  AL Solutions employs a proprietary process to recycle metals for use as an additive by aluminum producers to strengthen their products. AL Solutions is a small business and presently owns and operates facilities in West Virginia, Missouri, and Pennsylvania.  

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Violations

  • Section 112(r)(1) of the CAA imposes a general duty on owners and operators of stationary sources producing, processing, handling or storing substances listed pursuant to Section 112(r)(3) of the CAA, 42 U.S.C. § 7412(r)(3), or any other extremely hazardous substance, to identify hazards which may result from accidental releases of such substances using appropriate hazard assessment techniques, to design and maintain a safe facility, taking such steps as are necessary to prevent releases, and to minimize the consequences of accidental releases that do occur.   The AL Solutions facilities named in the Consent Decree are subject to the general duty clause because they process titanium and/or zirconium which are extremely hazardous substances. 
  • An accidental release occurred at the AL Solutions’ New Cumberland, West Virginia facility on December 9, 2010 when, EPA believes, zirconium dust ignited and caused an explosion (hereafter, the “Explosion” or “Release”).  Two AL Solutions employees who were in the area at the Facility when the explosion occurred were killed.  Two additional employees located outside of the processing room were injured, one of whom later died from his injuries at a local hospitalDebris from the explosion reached nearby residents’ yards.
  • In the aftermath of the explosion, EPA inspected the New Cumberland Facility, and later AL Solutions facility in Washington, Missouri where AL Solutions had also had fires.  EPA assessed AL Solutions’ adherence to applicable industry codes and standards at those facilities to determine whether the facilities were designed and maintained safely as required by Section 112(r)(1) of the CAA.  
  • From the time of the explosion until the present, AL Solutions has stored significant amounts of titanium and zirconium at the New Cumberland facility.  Based on the its inspections, EPA determined that AL Solutions had failed to conduct and implement a Process Hazard Analysis (“PHA”) in accordance with the applicable National Fire Protection Association (“NFPA”) standards at each facility and also failed to adequately implement various industry standards at those facilities which could have minimized the likelihood and effect of AL Solutions’ prior incidents. 
  • The numerous deficiencies at AL Solutions’ facilities constitute violations of Section 112(r) of the CAA, 42 U.S.C. § 7412(r). 
  • In addition to resolving the CAA Section 112(r) violations, the Consent Decree also addresses separate state law violations alleged by the State of West Virginia related to the unlawful storage of waste at the New Cumberland facility.

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Injunctive Relief

As part of the settlement, AL Solutions is required to:

  • For all existing and new facilities at which it processes titanium or zirconium, complete technically-sound PHAs and implement measures related to adequate training, management of change in process procedures, incident investigation, self-audit, preventive maintenance, and emergency response planning.
  • Limit its acceptance of any new zirconium feedstock at any facility without prior EPA approval and limit its acceptance of new titanium feedstock until 75% of AL Solutions’ inventory has been properly processed or disposed of. 
  • Implement adequate safety procedures for the storage area at the New Cumberland Facility, including hydrogen monitoring and Forward Looking Infrared (“FLIR”) heat detection to identify volatile drums and prevent fires and explosions. 
  • Ship all zirconium for disposal or processing (with the exception of a limited number of drums which are required to be preserved as evidence pursuant to a judge’s order in connection with wrongful death civil claims against AL Solutions) within 90 days of the effective date of the consent decree.
  • Reduce its existing titanium feedstock at the New Cumberland Facility according to a schedule (with the exception of drums subject to a judicial preservation order).  Pursuant to the schedule, 75% will be shipped for disposal or processing by December 2013 and the remaining 25% will be shipped for disposal or processing by December 2014.

The injunctive relief required by the Consent Decree will ensure that AL Solutions implements consistent practices across its four facilities, as well as any new facilities it owns or operates during the life of the Consent Decree in order to prevent releases associated with extremely hazardous substances.  The present and future costs of the injunctive relief required by the Consent Decree and a prior administrative order are estimated by EPA to be valued at $7,622,231.

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Pollutant Impacts

The terms of the consent decree are designed to reduce the risk of accidental releases due to combustible metals like titanium and zirconium across AL Solutions’ operations.  In addition, the consent decree requires that approximately 2,389,180 pounds of titanium and 38,225 pounds of zirconium be disposed of or processed safely.

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Health Effects and Environmental Benefits

Titanium and zirconium are highly flammable and explosive and can be easily ignited under certain conditions, specifically when in dust form.  The resulting fires and explosions can be catastrophic and can cause overpressure and the release of shrapnel.  Reducing the risk from the processing of combustible metals can make industrial processes safer for workers, nearby communities, and the environment.  

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Civil Penalty

AL Solutions will pay a $100,000 penalty to the United States.  EPA considered the factors used to determine appropriate penalties set forth in the CAA, including the economic impact of the penalty on the business. 

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Comment Period

The proposed settlement, lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval. Information on submitting comments is available at the Department of Justice website.

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For more information, contact:

James Van Orden
Office of Regional Counsel
U.S. EPA, Region III
1650 Arch Street (MC 3RC42)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19103
(215) 814-2693
James Vanorden (vanorden.james@epa.gov)

Kristen Nazar
Office of Regional Counsel
U.S. EPA, Region VII
901 North 5th Street Kansas City, Kansas 66101
(913) 551-7450
Kristen Nazar (nazar.kristen@epa.gov)

Dean B. Ziegel
Waste and Chemical Enforcement Division
U. S. Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Ave, NW (MC 2249A)
Washington, DC 20460
(202) 564-4038
Dean B. Ziegel (ziegel.dean@epa.gov)

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