Mining company settles with EPA over chemical reporting violations

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) recently announced a settlement with P4 Productions LLC. The agreement resolves violations of the federal Emergency Planning and Community-Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) and Comprehensive Emergency Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) chemical reporting laws.

P4 Production is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Monsanto Corporation. It owns and operates phosphate mining and processing facilities in Soda Springs, Idaho. Phosphorous is a key compound in the production of herbicides and other products, such as leavening agents and carbonated beverages.

The settlement agreement was a result of EPA inspections conducted in 2009, which found that the facility had violated a number of environmental regulations between 2006 and 2009. The company failed to report uncontrolled releases of hydrogen cyanide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and mercury. They also did not report the use and expected releases of carbonyl sulfide, phosphine, and sulfuric acid and hydrogen cyanide. All of these chemicals are hazardous and pose serious health risks to workers and communities if their use and discharge is not regulated.

According to the EPA, "EPCRA Sections 304 and the CERCLA Section 103, require facilities to report releases of hazardous substances immediately if they exceed the reportable quantity. […] EPCRA Section 313, the Toxic Release Inventory (TRI), requires facilities that manufacture, process, or use toxic chemicals over certain threshold quantities file annual reports estimating the amounts released to the environment, treated or recycled on-site, or transferred off-site for waste management."

As part of the settlement P4 Production will pay a $600,000 combined civil penalty. Mining and processing facilities can work with environmental consultants to ensure that they are in full compliance with all federal and state laws as they conduct their operations.