DEQ hits recycler with largest air quality fine ever
An aluminum recycling plant in The Dalles has been hit with the largest fine ever imposed by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality for air pollution.
The state announced Thursday that it is assessing a fine of $1.3 million against Hydro Extrusion USA, a Norwegian company found by DEQ and Environmental Protection Agency inspectors to have multiple violations of its air quality permit for its plant in The Dalles. Violations were found during an inspection last April, DEQ said.
According to DEQ, the facility's air quality permit allows it to melt only "clean charge"— material that's free of oil and grease, paints or other coatings. Inspectors found that the facility processed unclean, coated aluminum scrap for more than a year.
"DEQ found Hydro Extrusion operated with flagrant disregard for the rules and conditions of its air quality permit," said Kieran O'Donnell, DEQ compliance and enforcement manager. "DEQ expects industrial facilities to adhere to the rules that are in place to protect the health of Oregon's people and environment. Hydro Extrusion chose not to follow these rules, and DEQ is holding the facility accountable to ensure in the future it operates in full compliance with environmental laws."
According to DEQ, inspectors also found the facility didn't do required tracking and monitoring to prevent the processing of unclean charge, failed to keep required records, submitted inaccurate certifications to DEQ, and use excessive amounts of an additive used to improve product quality.
After identifying the violations, DEQ ordered the facility to stop using unclean aluminum, improve its tracking and monitoring program, and submit monthly records so DEQ can verify compliance.
Hydro Extrusion has improved its scrap monitoring program at the facility and certified to DEQ that it has stopped processing prohibited material, the agency said.
The majority of the penalty — $1,063,485 — is the estimated economic benefit the facility gained by avoiding the cost of pollution control equipment. If the facility installs control equipment, DEQ may reduce the penalty.
The largest air quality permit penalty issued by DEQ until now was $303,169 against Eagle Picher Minerals in 2002 for operating a mineral processing plant in Vale without a federal permit.
The largest penalty in any DEQ program came that same year, a $1.4 million fine against Cain Petroleum for violations relating to a fuel spill from underground storage tanks in Hillsboro and Forest Grove.
Hydro Extrusion has 20 days to appeal the fines.
This isn't the first time Hydro Extrusion has run afoul of government regulation. In April 2019, the company agreed to pay $46 million to NASA and the U.S. Department of Defense in resolving criminal and civil claims for falsifying certifications for aluminum extrusions to thousands of customers across the country, including government contracts.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.