By Natalie Conrad
Herald Staff Writer
As the Environmental Protection Agency reviews the once-secret “Watch List,” ADM and several other Clinton-area plants made the list for chronic violations of the Clean Air Act.
These violations cover everything from dangerous air emissions to following procedures, as part of an ongoing effort to provide safe respiratory health to area residents.
“A lot of these violations are not just emissions, it’s the provisions that they take to ensure there isn’t a threat to human health,” EPA Press Officer for Region 7 Dave Bryan said. “It’s very detailed, we make sure things are down in writing. They may have these procedures, but do they use them?”
The existence of the list was first disclosed by the Center for Public Integrity and National Public Radio in 2011 during a joint investigation of EPA’s air pollution regulation.
Their investigation was reported in the series, “Poisoned Places,” which found persistent toxic air pollution two decades after Congress toughened the Clean Air Act and targeted chronic violators. The series found 1,600 businesses and institutions identified by the EPA as “high priority violators.” NPR reported that close to 400 were placed on the “Watch List” because they appeared to be receiving inconsistent or inadequate attention from state and EPA regulators.
High Priority violator status indicates that regulators have listed the facility as such under the Clean Air Act. That means the EPA or a responsible state or local agency has information it can use to establish a violation of the Clean Air Act. The agency may or may not have made a formal finding of violation.
ADM was listed as a high priority violator, but have since addressed the issue after spending 104 months on the list. The Clinton plant had multiple violations of the CAA each year from 2008 to 2012 and was listed as a level five health-risk screening group, the highest risk possible.
The health risk screening tool addresses chronic human toxicity associated with long-term exposure to harmful chemicals, according to NPR.
Although the facility has had its share of violations and emissions, ADM has taken strides to address the issue. The plant has reduced their criteria emissions by 80 percent since 2002 in part by installing new control and process equipment, and they continue to look for ways to reduce those emissions even further, according to ADM spokesperson Jackie Anderson.
“ADM is committed to meeting its environmental obligations, while pursuing ways to continually improve its efforts in both protecting the environment and enhancing environmental sustainability,” Anderson said. “If concerns are brought forward, we investigate them promptly and address any issues.”
Equistar Chemicals, 3400 Anamosa Road, owned by LyondellBasell Industries and M L Kapp Generating Station, 2001 Beaver Channel Parkway, also made the list with health risk rankings of 5 and 4. M L Kapp, owned by Interstate Power and Light Company, had a recent violation of the CAA, due to turning their report in late.
“We check year-round to make sure we are complaint,” Alliant Energy spokesman Steve Schultz said. “We stress the importance of addressing health risks.”
David Harpole, of LyondellBasell, parent company of Equistar, said the company was not aware of any information that would put the plant on a “watch list.” He said that when they receive a notice of violation from Iowa DNR or the EPA, they respond quickly with a plan of action and define what has been done wrong.
“Any issues we had, has already been addressed,” Harpole said.
While the EPA reports show multiple violations from these plants, it doesn’t necessarily deem them a chronic violator. When regulators don’t crack down within nine months of learning that a facility is a serious violator of the rules, the facility automatically pops onto the watch list. As a result, the agency says, some facilities may end up on the list in error.
Some of the facilities on the list likely are the “worst of the worst” polluters, but others may be breaking the rules in ways that do not pose significant risks for human health or the environment, according to NPR.
Tackling air quality issues involves both the EPA and Iowa Department of Natural Resources. Many of the plants are evaluated directly by the Iowa DNR, but the EPA has oversight authority.
In Nearby Illinois, the 3M plant in Cordova was also marked as a health-risk level five and spent 55 months as a high priority violator with several CAA violations from 2008-2012, according to the investigation.