The Justice Department, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the state of New York have entered into a consent decree with FrieslandCampina Ingredients North America Inc. of Delhi, New York, to resolve violations of the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act and New York state law.
The proposed consent decree calls for Friesland to address its air emissions, as well as its wastewater discharges to a municipal wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) and the West Branch of the Delaware River.
The company’s Clean Water Act violations led to pollution that passed through and interfered with the Village of Delhi WWTP and entered the West Branch of the Delaware River, which is part of the watershed supplying drinking water to New York City and other water systems. This action also addresses the company’s Clean Air Act violations, which led to excessive emissions of toluene, a volatile organic compound and hazardous air pollutant. The company will pay a civil penalty of $2.88 million. Half of the penalty will be directed to New York State, exclusively to fund projects to prevent, abate, restore, mitigate or control any identifiable instance of prior or ongoing water, land or air pollution. Additionally, the company will implement a supplemental environmental project (SEP) at its facility to reduce its discharges of heated water to the river at a cost of $1.44 million.
“Today’s settlement secures significant reductions in air pollution and improves water quality in the Delaware River and a watershed system that provides drinking water to millions of Americans,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “The settlement shows the United States’ commitment to ensuring that companies like Friesland comply with federal law requirements that limit discharge of industrial pollutants to our air and water.”
“This settlement will result in a 95% reduction of toluene emissions into the air, as well as significant reductions in discharges of pollutants into the West Branch of the Delaware River, which is a drinking water source,” said EPA Regional Administrator Lisa F. Garcia. “This settlement sends an important message that the United States will take decisive action to hold companies accountable for failing to properly control pollutants being emitted into the air and discharged into the water, and that shirk permitting and reporting responsibilities. EPA’s work will benefit the people of Delhi and will result in a healthier Delaware River for all who enjoy and rely on it.”
“Every New Yorker has a fundamental right to clean air and water, and companies have a fundamental obligation to protect public health and the environment wherever they operate,” said Attorney General Letitia James for the State of New York. “For years, FrieslandCampina ignored their obligation and the law, and as a result, put New Yorkers at substantial risk. This settlement reflects my office’s continuing commitment to protecting the environment and holding those who break our environmental and public health laws fully accountable. I want to thank the Department of Justice and the New York Department of Environmental Conservation for their continued partnership in this effort.
“DEC is committed to ensuring the safety of New York’s air and water for all and will continue to work hand-in-hand with our state and federal partners to hold those who violate New York's strict environmental laws accountable,” said Commissioner Basil Seggos of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). “Thanks to the partnership with the New York State Attorney General’s Office, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Department of Justice, this joint enforcement action and substantial penalty will require FrieslandCampina to improve its operations, protect Delhi residents and fund environmental benefit projects that will improve the surrounding community."
As a significant industrial source under the Clean Water Act, Friesland must first treat its wastewater – a process referred to as pre-treatment – before discharging it to the local municipal WWTP. Proper pre-treatment prevents excessive pollution levels, which can interfere with the effectiveness of the WWTP and can cause untreated pollutants to pass through the plant into receiving waters. In this case, the pollution levels that the company discharged exceeded levels set by the Village of Delhi on numerous occasions. The company also failed to comply with the requirements of New York’s industrial stormwater permit, which prohibits the exposure of industrial materials and activities to rain, snow, snowmelt or runoff that can transport pollutants to surface waters.
The facility is also a major source of toluene emissions under the Clean Air Act. Exposure to toluene can adversely affect human health by harming the nervous system and negatively impacting the kidney, liver and immune system. Friesland failed to obtain the proper permit coverage for its toluene emissions and to install the necessary emission controls, and violated other permit conditions, such as reporting requirements.
As a result of EPA’s and New York’s enforcement actions, Friesland has already completed approximately $6 million worth of work to come into compliance with all applicable CAA and CWA requirements by, among other things, installing equipment to properly control its toluene emissions, upgrading its wastewater pretreatment plant to properly treat its wastewater and taking other corrective measures.
Furthermore, Friesland will perform a SEP at its facility to reduce the adverse impacts of its discharges of heated water and the overall environmental risk to the Delaware River, by converting its non-contact cooling water system to a recirculating closed-loop system. The new system will reduce Friesland’s discharges of heated water to the West Branch of the Delaware River by approximately 85 percent. The river is habitat for several species of trout and is managed by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation as a trout fishery. Water temperature is essential to this habitat because trout are a cold-water species that cannot survive in warmer water temperatures.
The case is being handled by the Environment and Natural Resources Division’s Environmental Enforcement Section in conjunction with EPA and the State of New York. The consent decree for this settlement, lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and approval by the court.