Texas files more environmental charges against Gulf Chemical

02 March 2011 00:09  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS)--The Texas attorney general filed a new raft of environmental charges against Gulf Chemical & Metallurgical (GCMC) on Tuesday, saying the company has failed to maintain pollution control equipment at its Freeport plant.

In charges filed this week listing 77 violations of the state’s clean air and water quality control acts, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott called the company’s efforts “so inadequate that they relied upon duct tape to maintain their pollution control equipment.”

Abbott added that GCMC’s oversight of pollution controls was so lax that the company exposed state environmental inspectors to toxins.

In an October 2010 test at the plant, a contractor testing a stack received burns from molten metal that was spewing from the stack, and a staffer with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) had to leave for safety reasons, according to the state’s charges.

Other TCEQ staffers were exposed to uncontrolled dust emissions including hazardous wastes and sulphur dioxide from the stack being tested.

GCMC responded with a statement saying that the majority of the states charges were over violations “that occurred years ago and have either been addressed or are well into remediation.”

The statement said GCMC has submitted a proposal to Abbott to deal with most of those issues. “We hoped that the AG and/or TCEQ would at least discuss the proposal with us before filing this lawsuit, but for whatever reason they chose not to,” the company said.

According to its website, GCMC is the world’s largest recycler of spent petroleum catalysts and is a producer of ferroalloys.

The company has a history of environmental disputes with the TCEQ. According to the state, Gulf Chemical has been assessed fines exceeding $3m (2m).

In February 2010, the state launched a probe based on allegations that the company had manipulated wastewater flows at the plant.

GCMC responded by saying the state ignored audit findings from an independent internal investigation initiated by the company last September.

Texas authorities are seeking temporary and permanent injunctive relief and civil penalties in the charges filed this week.

($1 = €0.72)

By: Lane Kelley
+1 713 525 2653

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