A Neville Island resin manufacturer last week appealed an enforcement order issued Oct. 5 by the Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) that included more than $62,000 in civil penalties for alleged violations of its permit and local air pollution control regulations.
In its appeal, Neville Chemical requests that an ACHD hearing officer vacate the enforcement order, which covers six alleged air pollution violations stemming from a Sept. 2 equipment breakdown.
In case you missed it, here’s what ACHD officials said in a news release Oct. 5 regarding the incident and enforcement action.
In the early morning hours of September 2, first responders, including Allegheny County Emergency Services and Ohio Township Police, responded to the Neville Chemical Company following reports of a strong odor. The Health Department also sent enforcement inspectors to investigate the source of the odor.
All breakdowns at a permitted facility must be reported to the Health Department within one hour. In this case, the Health Department received the initial breakdown report 33 hours after the incident. Neville Chemical Company reported that one of the bottom valves leaked on a heat polymerization still, allowing raw material to enter a resin kettle and release a hydrocarbon mixture into the air.
Per the enforcement order, Neville Chemical Company must submit a corrective action plan to ensure that foreign volatile material does not enter their resin kettles in the future. They have 60 days from the date of the order to submit their plan. The company was also assessed a civil penalty of $62,075.
That penalty is based on the following violations:
Exceeding the short-term emissions limit allowed by the Title V permit for Volatile Organic Compounds,
Exceeding the short- and long-term emissions limits allowed by the Title V permit for Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs),
Work practices standards violations,
Failure to submit a breakdown report on time
In its appeal, Neville Chemical argues – in essence – that the alleged reporting delays were mischaracterized, that some fines overlapped with others for the same violation, and that the fines were not consistent with ACHD’s Civil Penalty Policy.
Neville Chemical previously ran afoul of ACHD’s air pollution regulations in 2018 by missing and failing required emissions testing. Those matters were ultimately settled with a modest fine and revised testing schedule.
While GASP credits ACHD with taking swift enforcement action after the most recent incident, we again call on ACHD officials to address what health impacts if any were associated with the breakdown event, which resulted in a facility process releasing a year’s worth of hazardous emissions in a period of just five hours.
“The entire facility is permitted to emit over 16 tons of HAPs annually and neither the Enforcement Order nor ACHD’s press release listed the specific chemical pollutants emitted on Sept. 2,” Mulcahy said. “I would like to see ACHD – as the County’s air quality and public health experts – address any potential adverse health impacts to the community that might have resulted from this incident.”
Editor’s Note: GASP follows ACHD enforcement actions closely and will keep you posted as this case progresses.