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NJ DEPT. OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION NEWS RELEASE
RELEASE: 6/28/99
99/84
CONTACT: Sharon A. Southard or Amy Collings
609-984-1795 OR 609-292-2994

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 school.

"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."

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