Plant fined $1 million

Published 10:56 am Friday, October 7, 2011

Hercules, GEO, Eastman reach settlement for spills in Nottoway River

FRANKLIN—Three companies will pay more than $1million in penalties for spilling toxic substances from the Hercules plant outside Franklin in 2005 and 2007 into the Nottoway River.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Wednesday it reached a settlement with Hercules and GEO Specialty Chemicals, who were fined $700,000 for allegedly breaking federal environmental laws.

In January, Eastman Specialty Chemicals, which owned and operated a portion of the facility, agreed to pay $365,500 in penalties for alleged violations related to its operations at the plant.

The discharge of chemicals in December 2005 results in a fish-kill in the river, according to the complaint. The number of fish that died was not indicated.

The Franklin plant along the Nottoway, which provides drinking water for Norfolk and Virginia Beach, manufactured chemicals for the paper and printing industry. In the 1990s, Hercules, the original owner of the plant, sold parts of the facility to Eastman and GEO. Eastman and GEO also manufactured chemicals at the facility. GEO sold its operations and Eastman closed a significant portion of its operations at the plant in 2009.

The EPA also claims the three companies had deficient oil spill prevention and control plans and deficient facility plans to respond to emergency spills. The agency also claimed there was inadequate oil spill response drills and exercises, unlawful oil discharges into the Nottoway River, inadequate oil storage tank secondary containment, failure to make required hazardous waste determinations, inadequate plant lighting, failure to report the storage of lead acid batteries and non-permitted operation of the sodium hydroxide rail car storage area.

The Justice Department will file both settlements in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.