The U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced a settlement with Boise, Idaho-based J.R. Simplot Co. and its subsidiary, Simplot Phosphates LLC (Simplot), involving the company’s Rock Springs, Wyoming, manufacturing facility.
“The U.S. leads the world in food production largely due to efficient and environmentally responsible farming, including the use of fertilizers,” Susan Bodine, EPA's assistant administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, told Water Technology. “This settlement with one of the leading fertilizer manufacturers advances EPA’s goals by creating environmentally beneficial waste management practices that reduce overall waste volume and ensure that the U.S. taxpayer will not be responsible for future costs associated with closure of this facility.”
According to a release, this settlement resolves allegations under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) at the facility, including that Simplot failed to properly identify and manage certain waste streams as hazardous wastes. In addition, the settlement resolves alleged violations of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) for Simplot’s failure to report certain quantities of toxic chemicals in accordance with EPCRA standards.
As a result, Simplot is now required to implement process modifications designed to enable greater recovery and reuse of phosphate, a valuable resource. The settlement also requires Simplot to ensure that financial resources will be available when the time comes for environmentally sound closure of the facility.
Simplot’s Rock Springs facility manufactures phosphate products for agriculture and industry, including phosphoric acid and phosphate fertilizer, through processes that generate large quantities of acidic wastewater and a solid material called phosphogypsum. The phosphogypsum is deposited in a large pile known as a gypstack, and acidic wastewater is also routed to the gypstack. The gypstack at the Wyoming facility is fully lined and has a capacity to hold several billion gallons of acidic wastewater.
Under the settlement, Simplot agrees to implement specific waste management measures valued at nearly $20 million. Significantly, these measures include extensive new efforts to recover and reuse the phosphate content within these wastes and avoid their disposal in the gypstack. The settlement also includes a detailed plan setting the terms for the future closure and long-term care of the gypstack.
In order to secure the funding needed for when the facility is eventually closed, the settlement requires Simplot to immediately secure and maintain approximately $126 million in dedicated financing.
“EPA commends Simplot’s efforts to enhance production efficiency, reduce waste, and provide financial assurance that will protect the environment,” said EPA Regional Administrator Gregory Sopkin. “The Rock Springs facility will be the first phosphoric acid production place in the nation to secure financial assurance of its gypstack solely through surety bonds, ensuring that taxpayer dollars will not be required for future closure or cleanup at the facility.”
Simplot also agrees to submit revised EPCRA Form R reports (Toxic Release Inventory) for 2004 to 2013 to include estimates of certain metal compounds manufactured, processed, or otherwise used at the facility. Simplot will also pay a $775,000 civil penalty to resolve both the RCRA and EPCRA claims.
The agency previously has required through judicial and administrative settlements that 12 phosphate fertilizer facilities complete extensive injunctive relief and bring their operations into compliance with RCRA.