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Henderson plant agrees to pay almost $14 million in pollution penalties

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Updated: 5/15 7:03 pm

LAS VEGAS (KSNV & MyNews3) — A Henderson industrial plant has agreed to pay a record $13.75 million in civil penalties to the federal government for cleanup of years of contamination.

The Justice Department announced the settlement between Titanium Metals Corp. and the Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday. The agreement anticipates the cleanup of potential contamination stemming primarily from the unauthorized manufacture and disposal of PCBs at the Henderson plant, according to a Justice Department statement.

The penalty assessed against TIMET is the largest ever imposed for violations of the Toxic Substances Control Act at a single facility, the statement says. TIMET also must pay $250,000 for illegal disposal of hazardous wastewater in violation of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.

TIMET is one of the world’s largest producers of titanium parts for jet engines.

As a result of the settlement, the EPA expects the removal of 84,000 pounds of PCB-contaminated waste from the environment each year, and will prevent the improper disposal of 56 million pounds of hazardous waste each year.

PCBs are chemicals that were used in paints, construction materials, plastics and electrical equipment prior to 1978. Exposure to PCBs has been demonstrated to cause cancer and other adverse health effects. They have been banned in the United States for the last 30 years, except for specific uses authorized by regulations.

When released into the environment, PCBs can persist for decades because they do not break down naturally.

“This settlement holds TIMET fully accountable for the period of its unauthorized manufacture and handling of harmful PCBs at the Henderson facility,” said Robert G. Dreher, acting assistant attorney general for the Environment and Natural Resources Division. “It will also result in substantial environmental cleanup and protection for the benefit of residents of the area, now and in the future.”

Under the settlement, TIMET must clean up the area and submit monitoring date to the EPA biannually for three years showing it is managing any PCBs it generates.

According to the government’s release, TIMET already has spent approximately $6 million on investigation, site cleanup and compliance measures to address the potential contamination.

Government regulators alleged that inspections conducted in in 2005, 2006 and 2008 showed TIMET had been unlawfully manufacturing PCBs as a by-product of its titanium manufacturing process, without approval required by the Toxic Substances Act.

The 2008 EPA inspection also revealed that the company had disposed of PCB-contaminated waste in a solid waste landfill and a trench at the plant.

TIMET has been working with the EPA since 2007 to bring the facility into compliance. TIMET has taken steps to reduce the amount of PCBs it generates and properly manage the PCBs it does generate.

The TIMET settlement comes only weeks after the government announced an agreement with Kerr-McGee for the cleanup of industrial land in Henderson, near the TIMET plant. Kerr-McGee agreed to pay $1.1 billion to continue cleaning up the nation’s largest plume of perchlorate, an accelerant used in rocket fuel. The perchlorate has found its way into Lake Mead, the primary source of water for Las Vegas.

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