The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Justice Dept. announced in a recent press release that CF Industries, Inc. has agreed to spend approximately $12 million to reduce and properly manage hazardous wastes generated at its Plant City, Fla. phosphoric acid and ammoniated fertilizer manufacturing facility. The settlement resolves CF Industries’ Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) violations and requires the company to pay a civil penalty of more than $700,000 and provide $163.5 million in financial assurances to guarantee appropriate closure and long-term care of the closed facility. This is the first case concluded under EPA’s National Enforcement Initiative for Mining and Mineral Processing.

“Wastes from mineral processing and associated fertilizer production can pose a serious risk to our nation’s drinking water and the health of families,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “Mining and mineral processing is one of our National Enforcement Initiatives and we are working to minimize or eliminate risks to communities and the environment from illegal hazardous waste operations at phosphoric acid and other high risk mineral processing facilities.”

"Mismanagement of hazardous waste from mining and mineral processing is a serious matter," said Assistant Attorney General Ignacia S. Moreno. "The companies targeted in the National Enforcement Initiative for Mining and Mineral Processing cannot proceed with business as usual. The agreement being lodged today requires, in addition to future compliance and an appropriate penalty, that CFI reduce and change its handling of hazardous wastes throughout its facility."

CF Industries, a manufacturer of phosphate and nitrogen fertilizers, operates a 400-acre phosphogypsum stack and associated ponds for storing mineral processing wastes from its phosphoric acid production operations. Between December 2004 and January 2005, inspectors from EPA and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection discovered that CF Industries was treating, storing and disposing of hazardous wastes in its stacks and associated ponds without a permit and failing to meet land disposal restrictions. CF Industries had also failed to provide adequate financial assurance for closure, long-term care and third-party liability for its facility.

As part of the agreement, CF Industries has implemented comprehensive waste containment and spill prevention measures to better manage its wastes, reconfigured scrubbers to eliminate all hazardous wastes from fertilizer manufacturing and reduce ammonia releases to the environment, and constructed a treatment system for hazardous wastes generated in fertilizer operations. CF Industries has completed the full site investigation required under the settlement to assess the degree of environmental contamination emanating from the phosphogypsum stacks and ponds and will take steps to remove and treat contaminated soils. In addition, the company will implement several management plans to ensure future compliance with RCRA, which addresses the appropriate handling, storage and disposal of hazardous wastes.

CF Industries also has agreed to financial assurance to cover the $163.5 million needed to fund all closure and long-term care obligations after the facility’s useful life ends. CFI further will pay a civil penalty of more than $700,000 for its past violations, to be split evenly between the United States and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, which is a co-plaintiff in this action.

Mining and mineral processing facilities generate more toxic and hazardous waste than any other industrial sector, based on EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory. If not properly managed, these facilities pose a high risk to human health and the environment. Since 2003, EPA has been investigating a total of 20 phosphoric acid facilities in seven states.

In a national enforcement effort, EPA has focused on compliance in the phosphoric acid industry because of the high risk of releases of acidic wastewaters at these facilities, which can cause groundwater contamination and fish kills. Examples include a 65 million gallon release of acidic wastewaters from the Mosaic Riverview facility into Tampa Bay, which led to a massive local fish kill. In addition, the state of Florida has incurred nearly $200 million in clean-up costs for treatment of acidic wastewaters at the bankrupt Mulberry Phosphates Piney Point facility in Polk County. A 2007 incident at the Agrifos phosphoric acid facility in Houston released 50 million gallons of acidic hazardous wastewater into the Houston Ship Channel.

The proposed settlement agreement, lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and approval by the federal court.

More information on the settlement: