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Several petrochemical companies to pay $5.5 million for years of pollution in area waters

Several petrochemical companies will pay $5.5 million to the federal government for costs...
Several petrochemical companies will pay $5.5 million to the federal government for costs incurred while investigating and addressing contamination of the Calcasieu Estuary Site.(KPLC)
Updated: Apr. 26, 2021 at 5:12 PM CDT
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LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - Several petrochemical companies will pay $5.5 million to the federal government for costs incurred while investigating and addressing contamination of the Calcasieu Estuary Site.

The pollution occurred over a number of years as the plants released chemicals into area waterways, according to the complaint filed in federal court.

As part of the consent decree, the companies do not admit liability. The consent decree was filed on April 12.

The $5.5 million will go to the EPA Hazardous Substance Superfund. The complaint states that the federal government has spent more than $13 million cleaning up the site.

The Calcasieu Estuary Site encompasses Bayou Verdine, Bayou d’Inde, Coon Island Loop, Clooney Island Loop, Prien Lake, Lake Charles, and the Calcasieu River from the saltwater barrier to Moss Lake.

The nine companies (some of which have merged) paying the $5.5 million are:

· Axiall Corp.

· CITGO Petroleum Corporation

· Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations, LLC

· Bridgestone Americas, Inc.

· Firestone Polymers, LLC

· Occidental Chemical Corporation

· OXY USA Inc.

· PPG Industries, Inc.

· Westlake Polymers LLC

Several petrochemical companies will pay $5.5 million to the federal government for costs...
Several petrochemical companies will pay $5.5 million to the federal government for costs incurred while investigating and addressing contamination of the Calcasieu Estuary Site.
Several petrochemical companies will pay $5.5 million to the federal government for costs...
Several petrochemical companies will pay $5.5 million to the federal government for costs incurred while investigating and addressing contamination of the Calcasieu Estuary Site.(U.S. Department of Justice)

General Allegations as outlined in the Department of Justice’s complaint:

Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations, LLC is the corporate successor in interest by merger to Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc. f/k/a The Firestone Tire & Rubber Company. The Firestone Tire & Rubber Company conducted certain synthetic rubber and/or latex manufacturing operations at the plant located at 1801 Hwy 108 East, Sulphur, Louisiana 70665 (“Bridgestone/Firestone Plant”) from the time the plant commenced operations in approximately 1943 until on or about November 30, 2001. On August 1, 1989, The Firestone Tire & Rubber Company’s name was changed to Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc. As part of a November 2001 reorganization and restructuring, Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc. was dissolved and merged into an entity later renamed Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations, LLC.

Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations, LLC, or its predecessors in interest, discharged wastewaters, including the hazardous substances styrene and chromium, from the Bridgestone/Firestone Plant through Outfall 001 into Bayou d’Inde. Prior to the 1970s, wastewater was discharged through stormwater Outfalls 003 and 004 to Bayou d’Inde. Also, Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations, LLC, or its predecessors in interest, used transformers containing PCBs, a hazardous substance, at the Bridgestone/Firestone Plant. In 2016, LDEQ conducted sampling of the Bridgestone/Firestone Plant discharge ditch to Outfall 001 and just beyond for the presence of PCBs. LDEQ detected PCBs in multiple samples and concluded that PCBs disposed at the Bridgestone/Firestone Plant have been released to Bayou d’Inde.

On November 30, 2001, the Bridgestone/Firestone Plant was acquired by Firestone Polymers, LLC. From November 30, 2001 until the present, Firestone Polymers, LLC has owned and operated the Bridgestone/Firestone Plant for the manufacture of synthetic rubber. Subject to a reasonable opportunity for further investigation and discovery, after Firestone Polymers, LLC acquired the Bridgestone/Firestone Plant hazardous substances disposed at the Plant were released to the BDAOC. Additionally, subject to a reasonable opportunity for further investigation and discovery, Firestone Polymers, LLC may be liable for releases of hazardous substances to the BDAOC as a successor in interest to former owners and operators of the Bridgestone/Firestone Plant.

Since at least 1983, CITGO has owned and/or operated a crude oil refinery and a lubricants plant at the Lake Charles Manufacturing Complex located at or in the vicinity of 4401 Highway 108 S, Sulphur, Louisiana (CITGO Complex). The CITGO Complex is bordered to the East by the Calcasieu River and to the north by Bayou d’Inde. The oil refinery and lubricants plant were constructed in the 1940s and then operated by a predecessor in interest to CITGO known as Cities Services Company. In March 1983, Cities Services Company transferred ownership of the Lake Charles oil refinery to CITGO. Also in March 1983, Cities Services Company transferred its partial ownership interest in Cit-Con Corporation, which owned the lubricants plant, to CITGO. CITGO acquired the remaining interest in the lubricants plant in 2002. CITGO owns and operates the oil refinery and the lubricants plant. It has also operated a propylene fractionation unit at the CITGO Complex.

The lubricants plant and the propylene fractionation unit have discharged waste streams to Bayou d’Inde. RI at 7-7. During CITGO’s operations, and operations of its predecessors in interest, hazardous substances, including, inter alia, zinc, phenols and toluene, were disposed and released to the BDAOC through, among other events, unpermitted leaks and spills during operations, and discharges through one or more permitted outfalls (Outfall 001 and 002) into Bayou d’Inde in violation of permit limits under Louisiana Pollution Discharge Elimination (“LPDES”) permit LA0005941, as amended. Additionally, CITGO and its predecessors have operated numerous unlined surface impoundments, including hazardous waste management units, at the lubricants plant to store or treat process wastes. Subject to a reasonable opportunity for further investigation and discovery, these impoundments may also be a source of hazardous substances released to the BDAOC.

CITGO’s refinery operations have discharged hazardous substances directly or indirectly to the Calcasieu Estuary via spills, discharges through Outfalls 003, 004 and 008 to the Calcasieu River Ship Channel in violation of LPDES permit limits (e.g., naphthalene, slop oil, ethanol, zinc, nitrogen ammonia, chlorine, phenolics), and hazardous substances in groundwater from CITGO’s unlined impoundments.

During the relevant period, Occidental has owned and operated petrochemical facilities at the Lake Charles Manufacturing Complex located in the vicinity of 4300 Highway 108 S. in Sulphur, Louisiana. In December 1982, a subsidiary of Occidental Petroleum Corporation (“OPC”) merged with Cities Services Company, which owned a refinery and petrochemical business at the Lake Charles Manufacturing Complex. In March 1983, Cities Services Company transferred its Lake Charles refinery and its marketing and transportation assets to a subsidiary that became CITGO, but it retained the petrochemical business (consisting of two ethylene/propylene plants and two polyethylene plants). Also in 1983, Cities Services Company transferred certain assets, including the two ethylene/propylene plants and two polyethylene plants, to Cities Service Oil and Gas Corporation (“CSOGC”).

In 1985, Occidental acquired CSOGC’s remaining petrochemical business, consisting of two ethylene/propylene plants and one polyethylene plant. In 1987, Occidental sold the polyethylene plant to Westlake Polymers Corporation, but it retained the two ethylene/propylene plants.

Beginning in the mid-1980s through the present, Occidental leased one ethylene/propylene (olefins) plant (EP-1) to CITGO which operated it as part of the propylene fractionation unit. Occidental operated the second ethylene/propylene (olefins) plant (EP-2) from the EP-2 restart in 1986 until May 1998. Occidental held LPDES permit LA0069850 for the ethylene/propylene plant at least through this period.

Equistar Chemicals, LP, a limited partnership joint venture between Occidental, Millennium Chemical and Lyondell Chemical Co., assumed operation of the EP-2 olefins plant in May 1998 under a lease from Occidental and operated the EP-2 plant through at least 2001 when the EP-2 plant was idled. Following Equistar’s bankruptcy in 2009, the bankruptcy court determined that Occidental remained the owner of the EP-2 olefins plant. Thereafter, Glenn Springs Holdings Inc., a subsidiary of OPC, managed the idled EP-2 plant on behalf of Occidental until the sale of the EP-2 plant in 2015. Occidental also sold the EP-1 plant property in 2015.

During the relevant period, Occidental owned and operated the EP-2 olefins plant and owned the EP-1 olefins plant leased to and operated by CITGO. During operations at its EP-2 olefins plant, hazardous substances, including, among other substances, benzene, sulfuric acid, napthalene, and mercury were disposed there and released to the BDAOC through, among other events, leaks and spills at the plant, or discharges through permitted Outfalls into Bayou d’Inde in violation of permit limits under LPDES permit LA0069850, as amended. Additionally, unlined surface impoundments at the Occidental EP-2 plant contain or contained hazardous substances. Groundwater beneath East and West impoundments is contaminated with xylene, toluene and benzene. The RI Report states that the East and West impoundments once contained waste PCB sludge and are an apparent source of PCBs in Reaches 2 and 3 of Bayou d’Inde.

Subject to a reasonable opportunity for further investigation and discovery, Occidental may also be liable for the acts of its predecessor in interest, Cities Services Company, for disposals and releases of hazardous substances at the petrochemical facilities during the years prior to the acquisition.

In April 1988, CSOGC changed its name to OXY USA Inc. Subject to a reasonable opportunity for further investigation and discovery, OXY USA, Inc., succeeded to certain liabilities of CSOGC and its predecessors in interest related to the disposal and release to the BDAOC of hazardous substances during earlier petrochemical operations at the Lake Charles Manufacturing Complex.

During the relevant period, PPG has owned and operated petrochemical manufacturing plants located at the Lake Charles South Manufacturing Complex in the vicinity of Pete Manea Road in Westlake, Louisiana, and in the vicinity of Columbia Southern Road and PPG Drive, Lake Charles, Louisiana on the West Bank of the Calcasieu River. Southern Alkali Corporation, a subsidiary of Pittsburgh Plate and Glass, acquired the plants in or about 1947 in order to manufacture chlorine and caustic soda. PPG acquired full ownership of the plants in about 1968 and manufactured a variety of chlorinated hydrocarbons and precipitated silica there.

PPG operated three process areas in the vicinity of Bayou d’Inde and Lockport Marsh. The chlor-alkali plant, the derivatives plant, and the chloralkali/silicas area. PPG was authorized through LPDES permit LA0000761 to discharge process wastewater from several outfalls into Bayou d’Inde, the Calcasieu River and Bayou Verdine. Outfall 001 discharges treated process wastewater from its three manufacturing plants, incinerator scrubbers and the waste treatment unit into the PPG Canal and Bayou d’Inde. During these operations, hazardous substances, including, inter alia, mercury, sodium hydroxide, copper, bromoform, hexachlorobenzene, and hexachlorobutadiene, were disposed and released into the BDAOC through, among other events, spills and discharges in excess of permitted limits then in effect under LPDES permit LA0000761, as amended. Additionally, the RI Report at 7-71 notes that PCBs were detected in Bayou d’Inde near the mouth of the PPG Canal, and that “PCBs are handled and disposed of through incineration at PPG and localized air deposition is likely.” PPG also discharges hazardous substances to the Calcasieu River upstream of the confluence of the Calcasieu River and Bayou d’Inde.

PPG has operated numerous surface impoundments to treat, store or dispose of process wastes. There have been documented releases to surface waters from at least three of the surface impoundments – the PPG Canal, the South Terminal Landfill and the North Dock. Sediments in the units and groundwater beneath these and other units are contaminated with hazardous substances.

Axiall Corporation acquired and assumed operations of PPG’s chlor-alkali plant and derivatives plant in 2013 either directly or through its subsidiary Eagle 2 US, LLC. In the transaction between Axiall and PPG, Axiall assumed most of PPG’s obligations and liabilities arising from the chlor-alkali and derivatives business. The assumed liabilities include liability for response actions and response costs relating to PPG’s chlor-alkali and derivatives business operations. Accordingly, Axiall succeeded to the liabilities of PPG related to EPA’s response actions at the Site.

Since 1986, Westlake, or its legal predecessors in interest Westlake Polymers Corporation and Westlake Polymers LP, has owned and operated polyethylene plants located in the vicinity of 3525 S. Cities Services Highway, Sulphur, Louisiana. Westlake Polymers Corporation acquired the polyethyene plants from OPC in 1986 and then merged into Westlake Polymers LP in December 2000. Westlake Polymers LP owned and operated polyethylene plants from at least December 2000 until it was renamed Westlake Polymers LLC in December 2007.

Westlake, or its predecessors in interest, discharged wastes into the Calcasieu River via Outfall 001 (process wastewater and stormwater) and Outfalls 002, 003 and 004 (untreated stormwater from process and non-process areas). RI Report at Section 10-7. Additionally, the RI found detections of BEHP to be associated with CITGO and Westlake outfalls. Id. at 10-56 to 57. These discharges included the hazardous substances naphthalene, phenanthrene, acenaphthene, benzene, toluene, ethylene dichloride, lead, and bis(2-ethyhexl)phthalate.

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