Enforcement

Case Summary: EPA Reimbursed for Oversight Costs at Agrifos Phosphoric Acid Release Site

Pursuant to an Administrative Order on Consent (AOC) signed January 2, 2013, Agrifos Fertilizer, LLC paid approximately $385,000 in reimbursement for oversight costs of repairs at its facility in Pasadena, Texas, following an August 2007 failure of a retaining wall, and resulting release of process water into Cotton Patch Bayou and Houston Ship Channel.

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Information about the Company

Agrifos Fertilizer, LLC (Agrifos) was formed in 2003 and is based in Pasadena, Texas. As of November 1, 2012, Agrifos operated as a subsidiary of Rentech Nitrogen Partners, L.P. The Agrifos facility in Pasadena, Texas is the third largest producer in North America of ammonium sulfate fertilizer (AS), and the largest producer in North America of synthetic granulated AS. The plant’s other products include ammonium thiosulfate fertilizer and sulfuric acid.

Information about the Agrifos Phosphoric Acid Release Site

Agrifos Fertilizer, LLC (Agrifos) owned and operated the fertilizer manufacturing facility located in Pasadena, Texas. Process water for reuse in the facility’s manufacturing process was stored at the site in several stacks including one 240-acre stack.  The process water contained hazardous substances.

On August 16, 2007, the site received an estimated eight inches of rainfall which contributed to an excess of process and stormwater within the stack, thereby causing a failure of the retaining wall surrounding the stack. On September 7, 2007, EPA's Emergency Response Team mobilized to the site and ensured Agrifos' response actions mitigated the threat to the public and the environment.  The EPA oversaw operations as Agrifos made temporary repairs to the retaining walls of the stack.

On September 12, 2007, a tropical storm warning was issued for the Houston area. Although Agrifos had made temporary repairs to the retaining walls, the anticipated eleven inches of rain in the area threatened to overtop the repaired retaining walls.  The next day the EPA issued a modified unilateral administrative order (UAO) directing Agrifos to conduct an emergency controlled release from the site to prevent a catastrophic release of hazardous substances from 240-acre stack. Thereafter, the EPA oversaw these activities to their completion.

On September 24, 2007, the EPA’s emergency operation was completed and the site was fully transitioned from Superfund authority to Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) authority under the modified UAO.

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Pollutants and Environmental Effects

Process water stored in the gypsum stack is reused in the manufacturing process. Process water has a pH of 2 (or less) due to phosphoric and sulfuric acid concentrations, and is considered a hazardous substance if released into the environment without treatment.

Summary of the Agreement

Agrifos and EPA signed an AOC for recovery of the EPA’s response oversight costs. The AOC called for Agrifos to pay $ 385,000.00 for past costs plus interest calculated from February 29, 2012, to the EPA.

On January 29, 2013, Agrifos paid $387,732 to the EPA.

Contact Information

For more information contact:

Lawrence E. Andrews
Litigation Coordinator
US Environmental Protection Agency
Region 6
1445 Ross Avenue, Ste 1200
Dallas, TX 75202
(214) 665-7397
Andrews.Lawrence@epa.gov

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