Rhodia is to pay a $2 million penalty and spend approximately $50 million on air pollution controls at eight production plants in four states across the US, per the terms of a settlement that will resolve allegations that the company violated the US Clean Air Act.
The pollution controls are expected to reduce harmful emissions from its production plants in Texas, Louisiana, California and Indiana by 19,000 tons per year.
The company will meet new, lower emission limits for sulphur dioxide at eight sulphuric acid production units: two in Houston and one in Baytown, TX, two in Baton Rouge, LA, one each in Martinez and Dominguez, CA and one in Hammond, IN.
To meet these limits, the company will install pollution control equipment at several plants and change operating procedures at several others. The states of Indiana and Louisiana, California’s Bay Area Air Quality Management District, and the city of Hammond, IN will receive shares of the civil penalty.
Rhodia is the first sulphuric acid manufacturer in the US to agree to a company-wide “global” compliance agreement. As a result of these actions, actual emissions at some of the Rhodia plants will decrease by more than 90 percent. The Justice Department and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) expect to reach similar agreements with other sulphuric acid manufacturers.
Rhodia’s plants produce acid by burning sulphur-containing compounds, creating sulphur dioxide. The sulphur dioxide is then converted to sulphur trioxide, which combines with water to form sulphuric acid. Air pollution is created when “unconverted” sulphur dioxide and sulphuric acid mist is released to the atmosphere. Children, the elderly and people with heart and lung conditions are the most sensitive to sulphur dioxide.
The US government’s complaint alleged that Rhodia made modifications to its plants, which increased emissions of sulphur dioxide, without first obtaining pre-construction permits and installing required pollution control equipment. The EPA requires major sources of air pollution to obtain such permits before making changes that would result in a significant emissions increase of any pollutant. The settlement will ensure that the proper pollution equipment will be installed to reduce future emission levels.