Two Midwest Plants Agree to Clear the Air, Pay Penalties in Separate Settlements

EPA Region 5 announced on Tuesday that it had reached separate agreements with two companies on alleged Clean Air Act violations, one at a commercial printing plant in Grayslake, Ill., the other at a chemical plant in Riverview, Mich. The combined penalties, including project costs, exceed $500,000.

The agreement with GFX International Inc., which includes a $100,000 penalty and four environmental projects costing $260,000, resolves EPA allegations that the Grayslake company operated its printing plant without air permits that would have required controls on toluene, a hazardous volatile organic air pollutant that was used as a component of a wash-up solvent. EPA notified the company of the alleged violations in January 2008 following a November 2007 inspection conducted in response to a citizen's complaint of an odor from the GFX facility. Since June 2008, GFX has been using a blend of non-hazardous chemicals as a wash-up solvent, EPA noted.

The environmental projects are designed to protect the environment by reducing emissions of VOCs from the plant. The projects include installation of a device to extract solvents from shop towels and installation of an industrial solvent recovery system so that solvents can be reused. The agency noted that breathing high levels of toluene affects the brain and can cause headaches, confusion, dizziness, sleepiness, and memory loss. It added that VOCs contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone or smog, which forms when a mixture of pollutants react on warm, sunny days. Smog can cause respiratory problems, including coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest pain. Children, the elderly, and people with asthma are especially at risk, but these health concerns are important to everyone, EPA said, noting that the GFX plant is located in an area that fails to meet the national outdoor air quality standard for ground-level ozone.

The agency's agreement with Arkema Inc., which includes a $170,000 penalty, resolves EPA allegations that the chemical plant violated federal leak detection and repair regulations at its Riverview facility. The alleged violations were discovered during an EPA inspection. The agency said leak detection and repair regulations require regular monitoring of connectors, valves, and pumps, and if leaks are found, they must be repaired promptly. If left undetected and unrepaired, even minor leaks could result in substantial emissions of hazardous air pollutants that might adversely affect public health and the environment. In the agreement announcement, EPA noted hazardous air pollutants may cause serious health effects including birth defects and cancer, and may also cause harmful environmental and ecological effects.

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