The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S Department of Justice, and the Jefferson County Board of Health in Alabama have reached a settlement with Drummond Company over allegations that Drummond’s ABC Coke facility north of Birmingham, Alabama, was releasing 10 times the amount cancer-causing benzene into the air than it was reporting.
As part of the settlement, Drummond will pay $775,000 in penalties, which will be equally split between the EPA and the Jefferson County Board of Health. The company will also complete a supplemental environmental project so that it can establish semi-annual monitoring for leaks using a thermal imaging camera.
The consent degree is up for public comment for 30 days and can be accessed on the Department of Justice website.
During a May 2011 inspection of Drummond’s Tarrant, Alabama coke facility, EPA and the county health department found several violations of the Clean Air Act in its handling of benzene including with its leak detection and repair process. Inspectors also found open-ended lines, improperly sealed equipment, and improperly monitored waste water streams.
Benzene is a colorless, flammable liquid often identified by its sweet odor. It is used in gasoline-related industries, oil refineries, and chemical plants. The American Cancer Society has identified long-term exposure to high levels of benzene as a risk factor for some types of leukemia, specifically acute myeloid leukemia (AML).
Several agencies, including the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the National Toxicology Program, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, and the EPA have classified benzene as a cancer-causing agent. Those exposed to benzene in the workplace are at greater risk of adverse effects of benzene exposure.