Air, Hazwaste Violations Cost Texas PVC Makers $7.2 Million

HOUSTON, Texas, December 1, 2008 (ENS) - The largest producer of polyvinyl chloride in the United States, and its subsidiary, have agreed to spend $7.285 million to comply with federal laws at their manufacturing facilities in Freeport, Texas.

The two companies have agreed to pay a $2.585 million civil penalty to resolve environmental violations, and to perform $4.7 million worth of supplemental environmental projects in a settlement announced today by the U.S. Justice Department and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The actions pledged by Shintech, Inc. and its subsidiary K-Bin, Inc. are expected reduce chlorofluorocarbon emissions that destroy the ozone layer, lower emissions of vinyl chloride, and improve hazardous waste management at these facilities.

Polyvinyl chloride, commonly abbreviated PVC, is a thermoplastic polymer resin that as a hard plastic is used as vinyl siding, magnetic stripe cards, pipe, plumbing and conduit fixtures.

PVC can be made softer and more flexible by the addition of chemicals such as phthalates. In this form, it is used in toys, clothing and upholstery, and to make flexible hoses and tubing, flooring, roofing membranes, and electrical cable insulation.

Shintech and K-Bin have agreed to reduce emissions of ozone-depleting refrigerants by replacing six refrigeration units with units that use refrigerants that do not harm the Earth's protective stratospheric ozone layer.

The two companies also have agreed to third-party audits of their handling of ozone-depleting refrigerants, increased training, and other steps to ensure compliance with EPA regulations under the Clean Air Act.

Shintech will close a lagoon and a drying bed that were not designed to handle hazardous waste, implement a series of audits and reviews of its hazardous-waste handling practices, and add a treatment tank to its wastewater treatment system.

Shintech has agreed to perform three environmental projects as part of the settlement.

The company will add at least 300 acres of forest and wetlands to Austin's Woods preserve, also called the Colombia Bottomlands area, managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Shintech will create a free recycling program in the city of Houston that will pick up and recycle residential appliances containing ozone-depleting refrigerants. This project is designed to reduce emissions of ozone-depleting chemicals from residential appliances in Houston, which now does not have a program to deal with old and abandoned refrigerators containing ozone-depleting chemicals.

Finally, Shintech will retrofit part of its manufacturing process to reduce emissions of polyvinyl chloride by 10,000 pounds per year. Altogether, the three projects are estimated to cost at least $4.7 million.

The settlement resolves allegations that the companies violated the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the federal hazardous waste law made in a complaint filed simultaneously with the settlement by the Justice Department on behalf of the EPA.

"This enforcement action will produce real environmental benefits - lower emissions of ozone-depleting chemicals, lower emissions of vinyl chloride, and much better procedures for the handling of hazardous waste," said Ronald Tenpas, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.

"It is imperative that business and industry do their part to minimize the possible harm their operations may cause to our environment," said EPA Regional Administrator Richard Greene. "This agreement will ensure corrective action is taken and provide added benefits to the environment through supplemental projects."

The consent decree, lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and approval by the federal court. The consent decree is available on the Justice Department Web site at

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