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Texas environment agency: Formosa Plastics 'satisfactory' in compliance

By Sonny Long
May 3, 2013 at 12:03 a.m.
Updated May 4, 2013 at 12:04 a.m.

Formosa Plastics in Point Comfort

FORMOSA PLASTICS 2012 COMPLIANCE RATING

According to a Texas Commission on Environmental Quality compliance history report, from Sept. 1, 2007, through Aug. 31, 2012, Formosa Plastics in Point Comfort had a compliance rating of 12.09. What does this mean? The commission uses a formula for determining a rating that includes the number of violations, their severity and number of chronic emissions events, among other factors. A point total - the lower the better - between 0.1 and 55 earns a satisfactory rating.

SOURCE: Texas Administrative Code

Formosa Plastics in Point Comfort has a satisfactory compliance rating with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

However, the company hasn't been without some issues - the latest a flash fire Thursday that injured 14 workers.

The commission has been at the scene since Thursday, and its investigation will focus on emissions, said Terry Clawson, the commission's media manager.

"TCEQ's investigation will focus on any environmental or human impacts potentially caused from the emissions," he said. "We will investigate whether there were unauthorized emissions during the incident. We'll determine that from actual monitoring and from understanding what actually occurred during the incident.

"We will be working closely with the facility on its understanding of the root cause and any modifications that might be necessary as a result.

"The fire was brought under control relatively quickly, and the winds were blowing away from Point Comfort, so we do not anticipate that Point Comfort residents were impacted by emissions from the fire," Clawson said.

He said all environmental effects will be investigated.

Clawson said there was no timeframe for the completion of the commission's investigation.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration also has been in Point Comfort since Thursday afternoon, said Diana Petterson, regional director of the Office of Public Affairs for the U.S. Department of Labor.

OSHA automatically investigates incidents that hospitalize three or more employees, according to OSHA guidelines.

The most recent OSHA violation at the plant was in January 2012 and concerned incomplete injury and illness logs related to contractors' work in process areas, according to OSHA records.



'SATISFACTORY'

By definition, a satisfactory compliance classification from the commission means the plant has "generally complied with environmental regulations," according to the Texas Administrative Code.

According to a commission compliance history report, the plant has had eight findings of fact against it during the past five years, but all were considered moderate.

"In order to be considered a major finding, it has to reach a certain threshold," said Lynley Doyen, special assistant in the commission's enforcement division. "About 85 percent of our findings are rated moderate."

Thursday's flash fire could be a cause for another finding, depending on the investigation, Clawson said.

"If the cause is not corrected and a similar event occurred, then they may have future unauthorized emissions, which could impact compliance history," Clawson said.

Compliance histories are considered when issuing permits, according to the administrative code.



VIOLATIONS

The findings at Formosa - the oldest from November 2008 and the most recent in December 2012 - mainly involve emissions issues.

One of the findings detailed the unauthorized discharge of 284,764 gallons of untreated wastewater that overflowed from the containment areas into Cox Creek over a five-day period in September 2010.

"Our records indicate that Formosa has completed all corrective actions required to resolve the violations and that for each of these orders, the enforcement file has been closed," said Clawson.

From May 2008 until April 2013, Formosa Plastics in Point Comfort was either inspected or had its records reviewed 229 times by the commission, according to the compliance report.

In addition to the eight findings of fact, in the past five years Formosa has received 22 written notices of violations from the commission, including seven that were self-reported by the company.

"These are letters sent to the company detailing an allegation of a violation. The company then has time to respond to the notice," Doyen said.

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