Texas environmental officials searched Shintech Inc.'s PVC plant in Freeport, Texas, on Jan. 26 after receiving a complaint that the plant allegedly was emptying unsafe waste water into the nearby Brazos River.
Officials seized numerous items from the plant during the search, including log books, waste-water reports and personnel files. The plant ranks as North America's largest PVC production facility, with annual capacity of more than 3 billion pounds.
In a Jan. 28 news release, officials with Houston-based Shintech said the firm is cooperating with authorities.
We respect the legal process and take any allegations of improper conduct very seriously, officials said in the release. Our initial conversations with employees suggest the allegations may not be accurate.
We'll continue to cooperate with authorities and provide information as requested. As we learn more, we may be in better position to provide additional information at some point.
The search warrant was issued after an investigator with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality met with four individuals a former employee and three others closely associated with Shintech who claimed plant management had bypassed pH and turbidity meters, allowing untreated waste water to discharge into a channel that led to the Brazos River.
The former employee who worked at the plant from 1981-2009 said the two meters are routinely bypassed by plant employees.
The former employee added that during a plant shutdown in 2008, waste water containing more than 20,000 pounds of solids was discharged from the plant. The plant's waste-water permit allows a maximum discharge concentration of less than 1,200 pounds of solids per day, according to the former employee.
Pending the outcome of the investigation, Shintech could face charges of intentional discharge of a pollutant, tampering with a government record, failure to notify and failure to properly use pollution-control measures, according to the affidavit, which was filed in U.S. District Court in Austin, Texas.