The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced a settlement with Evonik Corporation that will reduce emissions of ethylene oxide and other hazardous air pollutants by 5.6 tons per year from a facility in Reserve, St. John the Baptist Parish, Louisiana. The alleged violations were found as a result of a special monitoring and enforcement effort by officials from EPA and the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) following EPA Administrator Michael Regan’s visit to the area during his Journey to Justice tour.
As part of the settlement, Evonik must pay a civil penalty of $75,000 to resolve the alleged violations at the facility.
The inspections took place in April 2022 as part of the Pollution Accountability Team, an innovative air monitoring project developed by EPA enforcement teams based on concerns of area residents. The initiative combined high-tech air pollution monitoring and real-time physical inspections. EPA’s ASPECT airplane collected emissions data from facilities while EPA’s Geospatial Monitoring of Air Pollution, or GMAP, vehicle monitored pollution levels at facility fencelines and adjacent neighborhoods. Teams of inspectors from EPA and LDEQ were available to follow up with on-the-spot, unannounced inspections at specific facilities if monitoring results indicated elevated emissions.
Evonik has already replaced their scrubber with a more efficient flare, which will destroy 98% of emissions routed to it. Evonik will also install a thermal oxidizer and be required to operate it with a minimum destruction efficiency of 99.9% as demonstrated by a required initial performance test. Evonik will also implement an enhanced leak detection and repair program, which will help minimize fugitive emissions of ethylene oxide and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
The corrective actions will reduce hazardous air pollutant emissions by about 5.6 tons per year, including 2.16 tons of ethylene oxide. Ethylene oxide is a hazardous organic pollutant and VOC that can cause cancer in humans. VOCs can contribute to the formation of ozone, or smog, which can result in health problems such as asthma, lung infections, bronchitis, and cancer.
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