Solenis plant fined $10K for wastewater permit violations

Published 11:12 am Monday, June 5, 2017

The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality has issued a $10,039 fine to the Solenis chemical plant in Courtland for violations of the State Water Control Law, and has imposed an order by consent effective May 15.

According to John Brandt, the DEQ’s regional enforcement manager for the Western Tidewater area, the facility was cited for wastewater discharge into the Nottoway River in excess of its permitted limits on water temperature and toxicity in mid to late 2016. Specifically, in August 2016, Solenis’ discharge monitoring report, which the company is required to submit to the DEQ on a monthly basis, indicated that the plant had discharged water that was too hot into the river. Brandt said the reported temperature of the discharged wastewater in August was 32.7 degrees celsius, while the maximum allowed by the permit is 32.

In terms of the toxicity limit, Solenis was specifically cited for incorrectly reporting its wastewater’s biochemical oxygen demand during the months of September and November 2016, which is defined as the amount of dissolved oxygen that must be present in wastewater in order for microorganisms to decompose the organic matter dissolved in the water, and for failing to determine a quantitative limit for its discharge of hexavalent chromium from October through December.

“The hexavalent chromium does not have a specified limit in the permit, yet the facility must sample to determine what quantity is in the discharge,” Brandt explained. “In this case, the manner of reporting of those samples was in error such that it was unknown what the sample indicated. The error is considered little or no risk to the environment but as a reporting error, it was addressed in the enforcement case.”

According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, hexavalent chromium is a toxic form of the element chromium, rarely found in nature and typically manmade, that is used in pigments, mental finishing, wood preservatives, fungicides and as an ingredient in the synthesis of other chemicals. It may also be produced by the fumes generated during the production or welding of chrome alloys. It is linked to lung cancer and can cause irritation or damage to the nose, throat and lungs if inhaled, and to the eyes and skin upon contact.

According to the DEQ’s consent order, Solenis explained the slightly higher than permitted wastewater temperature as being the result of high ambient air temperatures during August 2016.

Solenis also maintains that the reason its biochemical oxygen demand figures were reported inaccurately was because of an analytical error made by a subcontracted laboratory during the specified reporting periods. Brandt reports that Solenis has already paid the fine. The order also requires Solenis to create a corrective action plan to address the reporting errors by June 14, which the company has also already submitted to the DEQ.

Representatives of Solenis were unable to be reached for additional comments by press time.