DEQ levies $1.3M fine for The Dalles plant violations

DEQ levies $1.3M fine for The Dalles plant violations

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) issued a nearly $1.3M penalty to Hydro Extrusion USA LLC for multiple air quality permit violations at its aluminum recycling facility in The Dalles on Jan.8, according to a press release from DEQ.

The fine is the largest air quality penalty ever issued by DEQ, which also regulates land and water quality in Oregon.

The facility in The Dalles melts down aluminum scrap so it can be recycled into new products.  

DEQ and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency discovered the violations during an unannounced inspection in April 2019. The facility’s air quality permit allows it to melt only “clean charge,” defined as material that’s free of oil and grease, paints or other coatings. DEQ found the facility processed unclean, coated aluminum scrap for more than a year. Processing this material is prohibited under the facility’s permit.

Hydro Extrusion is part of Norsk Hydro, a Norway-based company that operates aluminum facilities worldwide, including dozens in the U.S.

DEQ also found the facility did not conduct the required tracking and monitoring intended to prevent the processing of unclean charge, failed to keep required records, submitted inaccurate certifications to DEQ, and exceeded the allowable rate of an additive used to improve product quality.

“DEQ found Hydro Extrusion operated with flagrant disregard for the rules and conditions of its air quality permit,” said Kieran O’Donnell, DEQ compliance and enforcement manager. “DEQ expects industrial facilities to adhere to the rules that are in place to protect the health of Oregon’s people and environment. Hydro Extrusion chose not to follow these rules, and DEQ is holding the facility accountable to ensure in the future it operates in full compliance with environmental laws.”

After identifying the violations, DEQ ordered the facility to stop using unclean aluminum, improve its tracking and monitoring program, and submit monthly records so DEQ can verify compliance. Hydro Extrusion has since improved its scrap monitoring program at the facility and certified to DEQ that it has stopped processing prohibited material.

The majority of the $1,296,885 penalty—$1,063,485—is the estimated economic benefit the facility gained by avoiding the cost to install and maintain pollution control equipment. If the facility installs control equipment, DEQ may recalculate the economic benefit portion of the penalty.

The largest prior air quality permit penalty issued by DEQ was $303,169. The largest ever penalty in any DEQ program area was $1.4 million for violations relating to a fuel spill from underground storage tanks.

Calls to Hydro Extrusion The Dalles were not immediately returned.

Hydro Extrusion may appeal the alleged violations within 20 days of receiving the penalty notice.

According to a report by the East Oregonian, this isn’t the first time Hydro Extrusion USA has run afoul of government regulation. In April 2019, the company agreed to pay $46 million to NASA and the U.S. Department of Defense in resolving criminal and civil claims for falsifying certifications for aluminum extrusions to thousands of customers across the country, including government contracts.

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