Air pollution agency cites Jefferson Twp. company for violations

Odor complaints could result in penalties for Clean Water Ltd.

A new round of environmental problems have cropped up at the troubled Jefferson Twp. plant formerly known as Perma-Fix of Dayton, leading the Regional Air Pollution Control Agency to slap current owner Clean Water Ltd. with a notice of violation that could result in penalties against the company.

RAPCA Administrator John Paul said Tuesday the agency isn’t satisfied with the Clean Water’s response to an incident in February in which the plant accepted for recycling at least 58,060 gallons of refinery oil high in odoriferous hydrogen sulfide. RAPCA said that violated a 2007 consent decree requiring the plant to establish measures to limit the kinds of materials it accepts.

“Either those measures weren’t followed or they weren’t good enough,” Paul said. “They are to tell us how they’re to correct the problem. We’re not satisfied with the progress they’ve made to date.”

There’s no timetable for taking further action, Paul said, but RAPCA could ultimately ask the state attorney general to take legal action to shut the plant down, or recommend that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency deny the company’s operating permit.

RAPCA said the plant accepted high-sulfur refinery oil Feb. 5-9 and 13-20. This “caused a dramatic increase in odor complaints and has led to a nuisance condition in the neighborhood,” RAPCA officials told the company March 7.

Maria Cruset, Clean Water’s environmental compliance director, said the oil was initially evaluated and approved for acceptance, but a change in the processing of the material at its source led to the introduction of odoriferous oil into the plant. She said all the oil was treated by being blended with other oil and sent off-site by March 30.

Cruset said the company was working on a “process improvement” to satisfy RAPCA’s concerns, but wouldn’t elaborate. Paul said the company is analyzing the effectiveness of an incineration device designed to destroy odors.

The plant at 300 Cherokee Drive, off West Third Street in the Drexel area, recycles oil and industrial wastewater. It is in a residential area, and neighbors have complained for years about strong odors and fumes they said caused nausea, headaches, dizziness and breathing problems. The December 2007 consent decree was reached to settle a federal lawsuit against Perma-Fix filed by neighbors and joined by the U.S. EPA. Clean Water Ltd. bought the plant shortly after the consent decree was approved.

That wasn’t the only controversy involving the plant. A grassroots neighborhood group mounted a campaign that in 2003 resulted in the U.S. Army canceling a contract with Perma-Fix for treatment of up to 900,000 gallons of neutralized VX nerve agent to be discharged into the Mongomery County sewer system.

Laura Rench of the Neighborhood Environmental Committee said after years of violations, it’s time for RAPCA to take action against the plant.

“We welcome this notice of violation, but we have had it,” she said. “The community is outraged. They placed a lot of faith and trust in this consent decree to end what started in the ’90s with Perma-Fix. They’re losing faith.”

Contact this reporter at (937) 225-2264 or tbeyerlein

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