Lucite International Inc. has settled government complaints that it violated air-pollution rules at its Memphis, Tenn., acrylic plant, agreeing Oct. 17 to pay a $1.8 million fine and spend more than $17 million on pollution-control equipment.
The U.S. government had alleged that the plant's sulfur dioxide emissions violated the Clean Air Act, and said the agreement marks a ``major settlement'' because the company will spend a significant amount of money to decrease 6,500 tons of pollution.
``Lucite will reduce emissions of pollutants that contribute to acid rain, cause severe respiratory problems and exacerbate cases of childhood asthma, which are of great concern to EPA,'' said Jimmy Palmer, regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency's Atlanta office.
In separate statements, the company and the Department of Justice, which negotiated the settlement for the EPA, cast the agreement in very different terms.
Southampton, England-based Lucite said it is installing the equipment to meet ``new EPA standards,'' and maintained that it has operated the plant within the guidelines of all permits and compliance regulations since it opened more than 30 years ago. The settlement, according to Lucite, amounts to changing the permit designation of one of the units of the factory.
``This change in designation is largely procedural, and at no time has the health and safety of plant workers or the surrounding community been an issue,'' the company said.
DOJ, however, said the agreement is more than a procedural change. The company had violated federal clean-air laws, including the New Source Performance Standards, since at least 1978 when it installed new equipment without proper emissions controls, DOJ said.
The violations were discovered in a 2002 inspection, the government said. The Memphis facility makes acrylic sheeting and methyl methacrylate monomer.
Lucite will spend $16 million on a pollution-control system to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions by 2,500 tons, and $1.3 million to cut other emissions more than 90 percent. Overall, the firm will eliminate 6,500 tons of pollution, including sulfuric acid mist, carbon monoxide and volatile organic compounds.