The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the EPA Region 7 have entered into a consent decree with Ag Processing, Inc. (AGP) to ensure compliance with oil pollution prevention requirements of the Clean Water Act (CWA). As part of the settlement, the company has agreed to implement specific preventative measures to ensure future compliance and improve accidental spill response.

“Protecting the waters throughout our region is one of our highest priorities,” said EPA Region 7 Administrator Jim Gulliford. “These compliance measures will help safeguard water resources, aquatic life, and the surrounding communities from potential spills."

Potential harm to environment is "substantial"

EPA inspectors identified CWA violations at eight large vegetable oil and biodiesel production, processing, refining, and storage facilities in Sheldon, Manning, Algona, Everly, and Eagle Grove in Iowa; Hastings, Nebraska; and Dawson, Minnesota. The eight facilities have a storage capacity greater than 1 million gallons, from which a discharge of oil to navigable waters could cause substantial harm to the environment. These facilities are required to prepare and submit a Facility Response Plan (FRP), and are subject to the Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) rule.

At each facility, AGP has agreed to work with EPA Region 7 to ensure compliance with SPCC and FRP regulations, as well as contract with a third party to conduct compliance audits. Additionally, AGP has agreed to install and maintain an electronic level monitoring and control system on seven large, crude soybean oil storage tanks at its Everly and Emmetsburg facilities in Iowa.

Continuous monitoring

The estimated $200,000 monitoring system project will provide additional benefits and safeguards at the facilities including real-time continuous monitoring of high and low tank levels; and audible alarms and cutoff switches that will de-energize the equipment from pumping further oil into the tanks when high levels are reached. The electronic system will provide AGP continuous monitoring over the tanks and enhance ability to prevent tank overflows and protect nearby waterways.

AGP will also be required to pay a civil penalty of $500,000.

Seven of the eight facilities were found to be in noncompliance with maintaining a proper FRP. A proper FRP is critical in providing an action plan for facilities storing large quantities of oil, and demonstrates a facility's preparedness to respond to an oil release and a worst-case discharge scenario.

Additionally, five of the facilities exhibited a failure to comply with the SPCC rule. SPCC’s are important to help facilities mitigate discharges of oil into navigable waters. The SPCC rule requires facilities to develop, maintain and implement an oil spill prevention plan. These plans help facilities prevent oil spills, as well as control a spill should one occur.

The consent decree is subject to a 30-day public comment period and approval by the federal court.