Chemcentral Fined $470,000


Chemcentral Corp. has agreed to pay a total of more than $470,000 to the Environmental Protection Agency and to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in fines and reimbursement costs related to a fire and explosion Feb. 7, 2007, at the companys distributor facility in Kansas City, Mo.EPA said the fire occurred when workers were transferring Indopol brand polybutene, an additive used in lubricants.

The sites future is still up in the air, while Chemcentral participates in a Missouri Department of Natural Resources program that will help determine the sites condition and whether it warrants a cleanup effort.

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As part of the total, Chemcentral will pay a $225,000 fine to settle a civil complaint filed by EPA Region 7. The company also agreed to reimburse EPAs costs of $150,713 for responding to the fire. EPAs on-scene coordinators and staff oversaw a large-scale response to the fire. The agency provided assistance to emergency responders and conducted air monitoring, along with taking samples from locations outside of the site and at nearby schools.

Barbara Theriot, director for OSHAs Kansas City, Mo., area office, told Lube Report that OSHA officials and Chemcentral had a formal conference to reach an agreement in December, and their settlement became final in January. The company agreed to pay $94,875 to resolve the agencys allegations of workplace safety violations at Chemcentrals site, according to Theriot. OSHA originally sought $126,000 in fines.

EPA on Thursday said its investigation found that Chemcentral violated the Clean Air Act by failing to identify chemical hazards and failing to design and maintain a safe facility. The agency also concluded that Chemcentral violated the Emergency Planning and Right to Know Act by not submitting a chemical inventory form for Indopol to the local emergency planning committee, the state emergency response commission, and the local fire department.

According to the consent agreement, Chemcentral neither admits nor denies the factual allegations set forth in the complaint filed in this matter, and there will be no formal hearing on the matter. The cost recovery part of the settlement is subject to a public comment period of at least 30 days. Chemcentral did not return requests for comment from Lube Report.

EPA filed its complaint in July 2007 for alleged violations at the Kansas City facility. EPA originally proposed a penalty of $434,260, including $398,760 for Clean Air Act violations, and $35,500 for Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act violations. According to the consent agreement, Chemcentral produced information regarding the size of its business that warranted a downward adjustment of the Clean Air Act penalty portion to $219,380.

Valerie Wilder, project manager with the Superfund section in Missouri Department of Natural Resources hazardous waste program, said she is serving as project manager overseeing characterization work on Chemcentrals Kansas City, Mo. site.

They entered the state of Missouris Superfund Cooperative Program, we call it, which means they signed a letter of agreement to initiate characterization work on the site with regards to potential releases from the fire and/or past operation, Wilder explained to Lube Report. They did some initial sampling this past December, and they just submitted a report. Theyre proposing additional groundwater sampling, and will submit another report within 30 days, in March.

Entry into the Superfund Cooperative Program doesnt mean the site would become a Superfund cleanup site, Wilder emphasized. The program is offered to potentially responsible parties who are willing to cooperate with the state toward accomplishing a streamlined cleanup outside of the traditional, federal Superfund process. Chemcentrals current goal is to ascertain the condition of the site, she added.

Thats why they entered our program with a limited letter of agreement, we call it, she explained. If during characterization, we find significant damage that warrants cleanup, they will sign a separate letter of agreement or more likely an administrative order on consent – thats usually what we get them to sign, in order to do a cleanup, and see it through the program that way. By end of the summer, we probably ought to have a decision on whether the site warrants some sort of cleanup.

Wilder said the department has not heard from Chemcentral about whether it plans to re-build on the site, which is in a mixed residential and industrial area. She said that while the company no longer handles products on the site, it does continue to use a one-story office building at the location. They havent stated in particular what kind of future use scenario theyre looking at, for the site, she said.

In April 2007, the U.S. subsidiary of Rotterdam, Netherlands-based chemical distribution company Univar N.V. completed its $650 million acquisition of privately held Chemcentral, which is based near Chicago. Chemcentral is a distributor of both specialty and commodity chemicals.

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