The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Monday it has settled a case with Pfizer Pharmaceuticals LLC for violations of the Clean Air Act at the company’s pharmaceutical manufacturing plant in Barceloneta.
Pfizer was found lacking proper air pollution controls to prevent leaks of methylene chloride gas used in the manufacturing process, EPA officials said during a morning news conference.
The EPA worked with Pfizer over the past several years to bring the facility into compliance with federal regulations. As a result, the plant is currently in compliance with air pollution control requirements in the Clean Air Act. The company will also pay a civil penalty of $318,000.
In addition to coming into compliance with the leak detection requirements, Pfizer has agreed to spend $410,000 to expand the municipal recycling program in Barceloneta.
“The community of Barceloneta will benefit greatly from this settlement, which will ensure the plant doesn’t emit methylene chloride through leaking equipment and expand recycling,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck. “Recycling protects the environment, saves energy and creates jobs.”
Under the Clean Air Act, Pfizer’s chemical and pharmaceutical manufacturing plant is subject to federal leak detection and repair regulations. In addition to not having air pollution controls to prevent leaks of methylene chloride gas used in the manufacturing process, the company failed to test its air pollution control equipment.
Methylene chloride, which is used in various industrial processes including pharmaceutical manufacturing, is a hazardous air pollutant that can cause dizziness, nausea and damage to the liver. It is likely to cause cancer in people.
The EPA has determined that leaking equipment such as valves, pumps and connectors are the largest source of emissions of hazardous air pollutants from chemical manufacturers.
Facilities must monitor equipment containing hazardous air pollutants at regular intervals to identify leaks, and leaking components must then be promptly repaired or replaced.
Under the agreement, Pfizer will purchase new recycling containers, equipment and vehicles necessary to enhance the recycling program in Barceloneta. Municipal recycling programs are essential to the protection of people’s health and the environment and also reduce greenhouse gas emissions, conserve energy and create jobs.
In 2012, Barceloneta reported it had disposed 9,474 tons of solid waste in landfills and had recycled 252 tons of solid waste, which translates into a recycling rate of only 3 percent. With the additional new equipment, the program will be expanded and the recycling rate will increase, EPA officials said.