Enforcement

Case Summary: Settlement with Formosa Plastics Corporation for Site-Wide Corrective Actions at Point Comfort, Texas Facility

On June 14, 2012, a Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) 3008(a) Administrative Order on Consent (AOC) between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Formosa Plastics Corporation, Texas (Formosa) was filed with the Regional Hearing Clerk for the EPA Region 6. This new Order complemented the existing 3008(h) AOC to obtain site-wide corrective measures for remediation of contaminated soil and groundwater and closed negotiations regarding a site-wide RCRA 3008(h) Unilateral Administrative Order (UAO).

The new 3008(a) AOC requires Formosa to implement Region 6 Corrective Action Strategy (CAS) procedures for investigation and remediation for the northern portion of the facility and to apply for a post-closure permit with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality by December 31, 2012. For several months, Formosa had not complied with requirements of the existing 3008(h) and so an agreement was reached between Formosa and the EPA to amend and revise previously established deliverable dates for workplans that are crucial for the control and cleanup of contaminated soil and groundwater.

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Information about the Company

Formosa owns and operates a chemical manufacturing facility in Point Comfort, Texas. This facility is located in Calhoun County along State Highway 35 and Farm to Market Road (FM) 1593, adjacent to Lavaca Bay. Formosa produces polyvinyl chloride (PVC) resin, polyethylene, and ethylene.

Information about the Violation

Formosa began operations in 1980 and expanded the facility in 1994, 1998, and 2010. Formosa has 13 different manufacturing plant areas located on approximately 1,600 acres in south Texas. The facility is located in rural Calhoun County, with the city of Point Comfort to the southwest; ranchland to the west, north, and east; and the Alcoa bauxite facility to the southeast. Cox Creek flows along the eastern boundary of the property. Lavaca Bay is located approximately 1 mile west of the facility, and the Gulf of Mexico is located approximately 1.5 miles east of the facility.

In 1982, Formosa reported discharges of 1,2-dichloroethane (1,2 DCA or EDC) to the former wastewater treatment plant area and releases of EDC to the soil and groundwater in the PVC production area. EPA issued the existing 3008(h) in 1991 and required Formosa to conduct corrective actions, including a RCRA Facility Investigation, a Corrective Measures Study, and Corrective Measures Implementation according to a specific schedule. In 1993, Formosa reported a discharge of EDC when a tank collapsed in the Chlor Alkali Plant. Surface soils were removed, and a pump and treat system was emplaced to remediate contamination in saturated soils and groundwater.

In 2004, EPA required Formosa to conduct corrective actions in the area affected by the 1993 discharge of EDC, in accordance with the 1991 Order. Formosa initiated dispute resolution to object to the inclusion of the expansion area in the 1991 Order.

From 2007 to 2009, EPA and Formosa transitioned from EPA’s traditional procedure for corrective action to the Region 6 CAS. Formosa prepared a Conceptual Site Model and drafted a Risk Management Plan. EPA hosted a public meeting to discuss the proposed Corrective Measures in October 2009. Formosa finalized the Risk Management Plan in 2010 in lieu of the final Corrective Measures Study Report. In discussions during 2010, Formosa agreed to a site-wide AOC for corrective actions. After further discussion with Formosa, EPA issued a draft site-wide corrective action 3008(h) AOC in April 2011; after six months of negotiations, Formosa objected to the 3008(h) AOC. EPA issued a UAO in January 2012; Formosa objected to the 3008(h) UAO in February 2012. As a result of negotiations between EPA and Formosa, EPA issued the new 3008(a) AOC and amended the existing 3008(h) AOC in June 2012 to address all known environmental issues and concerns at the facility.

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Pollutants and Environmental Effects

Formosa has reported multiple volatile organic compounds (VOCs), including chlorinated hydrocarbons (EDC) and daughter products, chloroform, and benzene in the soil and groundwater above health-based risk levels in site investigations conducted from 1988 to the present. Most of the VOCs are carcinogenic or probable carcinogenic substances. Shallow contaminated groundwater is contained to some degree by groundwater mounding effects from a facility to the south. Since the most chlorinated hydrocarbons are dense non-aqueous phase liquids (DNAPLs), they are continuing to sink to lower layers of the Beaumont Clay formation. DNAPL has not been reported in monitoring wells because it is believed that the DNAPL is mostly adsorbed to the clay layers in the formation. There have been several reports over the operating period at the plant that described releases of chlorinated hydrocarbons to the nearby Cox Creek.

Summary of Administrative Order on the Consent

The 3008(a) AOC requires Formosa to do the following:

  • apply for a post-closure permit or post-closure order for corrective actions with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality;
  • conduct a Scoping Meeting to discuss revising the Conceptual Site Model to include all areas of the facility;
  • submit a revised CAS work plan; and
  • update the Risk Management Plan (RMP) and associated work plans that comprise the RMP.

The amendment to the 3008(h) AOC includes a revised schedule of corrective actions with dates for compliance.

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Contact

For more information contact:

Frances Verhalen
Environmental Engineer
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Region 6
1445 Ross Avenue, Suite 1200
Dallas, TX 75202
214-665-2172
verhalen.frances@epa.gov