Last September, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sued Erie Coke over plumes of benzene emissions. On Friday, U.S. District Judge Barbara J. Rothstein approved the $500,000 fine.
The benzene leaks have gone unchecked and unrepaired since an environmental inspection at the plant in November 2010 and in March 2015. The continuing leaks violate the Clean Air Act.
The company only has 30 days to pay the substantial fine. If the decree’s requirements are not met, it could be charged penalties of $250 to $1,500 per day until the leaks are fixed. But this isn’t Erie Coke’s first violation by far.
Under a 2010 decree, the company paid a $4 million fine and made improvements worth about $15 million after state regulators threatened to shut the plant down. An additional decree in 2011 required Erie Coke to pay $300,000.
Many people are unaware of the danger of benzene exposure. It is a widely used chemical in many industries and products, but has been linked to a number of life-threatening illnesses including Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML), Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS), lymphomas and Aplastic Anemia. Workers in jobs that utilize benzene are in particular danger of toxic levels of exposure due to their close proximity to the chemical at much higher levels and for longer periods of time.
Occupations that have high risk of benzene exposure include printers, steel workers, pipefitters, dock and offshore workers, petroleum refining and extraction, carpet cleaners, floor layers, and many more. If you or a loved one were exposed to benzene and have been diagnosed with AML, MDS, lymphoma or Aplastic Anemia, contact a Beasley Allen attorney as soon as possible to learn your legal rights.