Rhodia, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of specialty chemicals, has pleaded guilty in a US federal district court in Missoula, MT to violating the US Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).
The violations took place at Rhodia’s elemental phosphorus manufacturing plant in Silver Bow County, MT.
The Silver Bow Plant manufactured elemental phosphorus from 1986 until 1996. In 1996, the plant was put into ‘mothball’ status, and was closed in 1997. Rhodia admitted, however, that from January 1999 until August 2000, after the plant was closed, it illegally stored elemental phosphorus sludge, a hazardous waste, at the site in a large concrete tank known as a 100-foot clarifier.
Rhodia also admitted that it illegally stored carbon brick and precipitator dust contaminated with elemental phosphorus waste. The carbon brick and precipitator dust had been discarded from a furnace at the site. The illegal activity was discovered in May 2000, when the EPA and Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) executed a search warrant at the Silver Bow Plant.
Rhodia agreed to pay an $18 million fine for its behaviour, $16.2 million of which will be paid as a criminal fine and $1.8 million which will be paid as restitution. The criminal fine is one of the largest ever paid for prosecution of hazardous waste crimes in the US.
Pursuant to a plea agreement, Rhodia will also be required to perform ‘remediation’ of all hazardous wastes at the Silver Bow Plant subject to approval by the EPA.