DEP ISSUES $1 MILLION IN CIVIL PENALTIES TO HETERENE
The state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) today issued civil
penalties totaling $1.07 million to Heterene Chemical Company Inc. and
ordered the firm to immediately cease unauthorized operations following
the conclusion of the state's criminal investigation of the company's
June 12, 1998 cresol release which caused the evacuation of a neighboring
"This was a painstaking and complicated investigation involving numerous
violations of air pollution rules. Our collective actions will serve as
a reminder to industry of the penalties for not complying with our environmental
laws and regulations," said DEP Commissioner Bob Shinn, who praised the
investigators at DEP, the state Division of Criminal Justice, the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency and the Passaic County Prosecutor's Office
who participated in the civil and criminal enforcement actions.
DEP alleges 524 violations occurred at the Paterson facility over 185
days between June 30, 1997 and June 28, 1998. DEP conducted a year-long
investigation centering on the types and quantities of chemicals used
daily in each batch of chemicals manufactured at each of the company's
five chemical reactors. DEP documented numerous instances where the firm
used quantities and types of chemicals that were not authorized under
the company's air pollution permits.
The investigation specifically alleges the firm emitted excessive levels
of hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
including cresol, potassium hydroxide, hypophoshorous acid and sodium
borohydride in violation of its air permits. It also alleges the company
used, in some batches, up to 65 percent more chemical material than its
permit allowed. DEP documented Heterene used unapproved chemicals in 190
batches on 154 separate days between June 30, 1997 and June 28, 1998.
The company must immediately cease the unpermitted operations and provide
proof to the department that it is complying with the terms of its air
permits. Heterene has 20 days to request an administrative hearing to
contest any of the allegations and penalties.
The penalties are based on the number of permit violations and the fact
that this is Heterene's second citation for violating its permit conditions
pertaining to HAP emissions. Heterene was first cited for unpermitted
levels of propylene oxide emissions in 1993 and later paid a $6,000 fine.
Under today's penalty assessment, the firm is fined $6,000 per day per
HAP permit violations, $800 per day for non-HAP permit violations, and
$500 per VOC record-keeping violation.
In addition, DEP has fined the firm $12,000 for failure to submit a plan
documenting how the company prevents accidental discharges. Under the
Discharge Prevention, Containment and Countermeasures Program, companies
using hazardous materials are required to develop plans to prevent and
mitigate accidental releases. The fine, imposed in March, is under appeal.
The firm was fined $5,000 by the Toxic
Catastrophe Prevention Act Program on the same date for
failure to conduct monthly tests of vapor leak detectors. This company
has appealed this fine as well.
"We are committed to ensuring that Heterene fully complies with all environmental
regulations," said DEP Assistant Commissioner of Compliance and Enforcement
Marlen Dooley. "Our order requires Heterene to provide us with documentation
regarding emissions and operations from June 28, 1998 to present, which
we will review in great detail."
DEP's history of enforcement action against Heterene includes three citations
on June 28, 1998 following the incident which released cresol. These charge
the firm failed to obtain the proper permits for two boilers on site,
emitted unpermitted air pollutants and used unauthorized materials.
In May 1997, another notice of violation was issued for exceeding the
maximum permitted batch sizes for two of its reactors. Heterene sought
to amend their permit limits, but DEP denied the application. The company
has appealed that decision.
Heterene is one of 16,000 regulated facilities in New Jersey which have
a combined total of 50,000 smokestacks. DEP performs more than 2500 inspections
at these facilities annually.
"The action taken today against Heterene underscores DEP's dual approach
to environmental management," said Deputy Commissioner Mark Smith. "The
great majority of industrial facilities in the state are operated by persons
who are serious about their responsibilities to public health and the
environment. DEP is committed to helping those persons comply with our
often complex regulations. At the same time, when industrial operations
are conducted with disregard for the public's well-being, we will take
deliberate enforcement actions."