Enforcement

DuPont/Lucite Settlement

(WASHINGTON, DC - Apr. 20, 2009) DuPont and Lucite International Inc. have agreed to pay a $2 million civil penalty to settle Clean Air Act violations at a sulfuric acid plant in Belle, W. Va., the Justice Department, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the state of West Virginia announced today.

Geography

One facility - Belle, West Virginia

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Industrial Capacity

This settlement, together with prior acid plant settlements, brings to 22 the number of these facilities nationwide now under consent decrees, representing approximately 10% of the capacity of this industrial sector.

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Emissions Reductions

Tons per year (tpy) of emissions reduction resulting from permanent closure of the Belle facility:

Sulfur dioxide: 1,059 tons per year
Sulfuric Acid Mist: 98.7 tons per year
Nitrogen Oxides: 86.1 tons per year
Carbon Monoxide: 212.4 tons per year
Volatile Organic Compounds: 11.9 tons per year
Particulate Matter 2.5: 1.4 tons per year

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Injunctive Relief

The Belle, West Virginia facility is being shut down by Du Pont and Lucite, as injunctive relief. The Defendants must retire all permits.

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Health and Environmental Effects

This settlement will reduce emissions of SO2, sulfuric acid mist, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, and particulate matter. These pollutants have the following environmental impacts:

Sulfur Dioxide (SO2)

SO2 causes a wide variety of health and environmental impacts because of the way it reacts with other substances in the air. Particularly sensitive groups include persons with asthma who are active outdoors and children, the elderly, and persons with heart or lung disease.

Respiratory Effects from Gaseous SO2 - Peak levels of SO2 in the air can cause temporary breathing difficulty for persons with asthma who are active outdoors. Longer-term exposures to high levels of SO2 gas and particles cause respiratory illness and aggravate existing heart disease.

Respiratory Effects from Sulfate Particles - SO2 reacts with other chemicals in the air to form tiny sulfate particles. When these are breathed, they gather in the lungs and are associated with increased respiratory symptoms and disease, difficulty in breathing, and premature death.

Visibility Impairment- Haze occurs when light is scattered or absorbed by particles and gases in the air. Sulfate particles are the major cause of reduced visibility in many parts of the U.S., including our national parks.

Acid Rain - SO2 and nitrogen oxides react with other substances in the air to form acids, which fall to earth as rain, fog, snow, or dry particles. Some may be carried by the wind for hundreds of miles.

Plant and Water Damage - Acid rain damages forests and crops, changes the makeup of soil, and makes lakes and streams acidic and unsuitable for fish. Continued exposure over a long time changes the natural variety of plants and animals in an ecosystem.

Aesthetic Damage - SO2 accelerates the decay of building materials and paints, including irreplaceable monuments, statues, and sculptures that are part of our nation's cultural heritage.

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Sulfuric Acid Mist (SO3)

Acid mist is a suspension of acid droplets in the air. The main health effects of short-term exposure to sulfuric acid vapors and mists are irritation and burning of the skin and the moist tissues of the eyes, nose and throat. Breathing in acid vapors and mists can cause chest tightness and shortness of breath. If the exposure continues, the burning and irritation of the lining of the lungs can cause fluids to collect in the lungs, which can lead to pneumonia, respiratory failure and death. Breathing large amounts of sulfuric acid droplets will also decrease the ability of the respiratory tract to remove other small particles in the respiratory tract. Exposure through inhalation, ingestion, or contact with the skin can cause pulmonary edema, bronchitis, emphysema, conjunctivitis, stomatis, tracheobronchitis, and dermatitis.

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Nitrogen Oxides (NOx)

NOx causes a wide variety of health and environmental impacts because of various compounds and derivatives in the family of nitrogen oxides, including nitrogen dioxide, nitric acid, nitrous oxide, nitrates, and nitric oxide.

Smog - Ground-level Ozone (Smog) is formed when NOx and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) react in the presence of sunlight. Children, people with lung diseases such as asthma, and people who work or exercise outside are susceptible to adverse effects such as damage to lung tissue and reduction in lung function. Ozone can be transported by wind currents and cause health impacts far from original sources.

Acid Rain - NOx and sulfur dioxide react with other substances in the air to form acids which fall to earth as rain, fog, snow or dry particles. Some may be carried by wind for hundreds of miles. Acid rain damages; causes deterioration of cars, buildings and historical monuments; and causes lakes and streams to become acidic and unsuitable for many fish.

Particles - NOx reacts with ammonia, moisture, and other compounds to form nitric acid and related particles. Human health concerns include effects on breathing and the respiratory system, damage to lung tissue, and premature death. Small particles penetrate deeply into sensitive parts of the lungs and can cause or worsen respiratory disease such as emphysema and bronchitis, and also can aggravate existing heart disease.

Climate Change - One member of the NOx, nitrous oxide or N2O, is a greenhouse gas. It accumulates in the atmosphere with other greenhouse gasses causing a gradual rise in the earth's temperature. This will lead to increased risks to human health, a rise in the sea level, and other adverse changes to plant and animal habitat.

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Carbon Monoxide (CO)

Carbon monoxide can cause harmful health effects by reducing oxygen delivery to the body's organs (like the heart and brain) and tissues.

Cardiovascular Effects - The health threat from lower levels of CO is most serious for those who suffer from heart disease, like angina, clogged arteries, or congestive heart failure. For a person with heart disease, a single exposure to CO at low levels may cause chest pain and reduce that person's ability to exercise. Repeated exposures may contribute to other cardiovascular effects.

Central Nervous System Effects - Even healthy people can be affected by high levels of CO. People who breathe high levels of CO can develop vision problems, reduced ability to work or learn, reduced manual dexterity, and difficulty performing complex tasks. At extremely high levels, CO is poisonous and can cause death.

Smog - CO contributes to the formation of smog ground-level ozone, which can trigger serious respiratory problems.

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Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

VOCs are precursors to Ozone, which causes the following health effects:
People with lung disease, children, older adults, and people who are active can be affected when ozone levels are unhealthy. Numerous scientific studies have linked ground-level ozone exposure to a variety of problems, including:

  • airway irritation, coughing, and pain when taking a deep breath
  • wheezing and breathing difficulties during exercise or outdoor activities
  • inflammation (like a sunburn)
  • aggravation of asthma and increased susceptibility to respiratory illnesses like pneumonia and bronchitis
  • permanent lung damage with repeated exposures

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Particulate Matter (PM2.5)

Particulate matter, also known as particle pollution or PM, is a complex mixture of extremely small particles and liquid droplets. The size of particles is directly linked to their potential for causing health problems. EPA is concerned about particles that are 10 micrometers in diameter or smaller because those are the particles that generally pass through the throat and nose and enter the lungs. 

Health Effects - "Fine particles," such as those found in smoke and haze, are 2.5 micrometers in diameter and smaller. Particle pollution, especially fine particles, contains microscopic solids or liquid droplets that are so small that they can get deep into the lungs and cause serious health problems. Numerous scientific studies have linked particle pollution exposure to a variety of cardiopulmonary problems:

  • increased respiratory symptoms like irritation of the airways, coughing, or breathing difficulty
  • decreased lung function
  • aggravated asthma
  • development of chronic bronchitis
  • irregular heartbeat
  • nonfatal heart attacks
  • premature death in people with heart or lung disease

Visibility - Fine particles (PM2.5) are the major cause of haze in parts of the United States, including many of our national parks and wilderness areas.

Environmental damage - Particles can be carried over long distances by wind and then settle on ground or water. The effects of this settling include: acidification of lakes and streams, disruption of nutrient balance in coastal waters and large river basins, soil nutrient depletion, damage to sensitive forests and farm crops and alterations to ecosystem diversity.

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Penalty

$2 million total (divided evenly between the United States and West Virginia)

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State Partners

West Virginia.

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Contact

For more information, contact:

Robert Fentress
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (2242A)
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.
Washington, DC 20460-0001
(202) 564-7023
Robert Fentress (fentress.robert@epa.gov)

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