Wyoming fertilizer producer settles with U.S. EPA over waste management violations

July 13, 2020
Simplot commits to further recover phosphoric acid from production operations and spend nearly $20 million to reduce operations’ environmental impacts

ROCK SPRINGS, WY — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Justice have announced a settlement with J.R. Simplot Company and its subsidiary, Simplot Phosphates LLC (Simplot), involving Simplot’s Rock Springs, Wyoming, manufacturing facility.

“The U.S. leads the world in food production largely due to efficient and environmentally responsible farming, including the use of fertilizers,” said Susan Bodine, EPA's Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “This settlement with one of the leading fertilizer manufacturers advances EPA’s goals by creating environmentally beneficial waste management practices that reduce overall waste volume and ensure that the U.S. taxpayer will not be responsible for future costs associated with closure of this facility.”

“EPA commends Simplot’s efforts to enhance production efficiency, reduce waste, and provide financial assurance that will protect the environment,” said EPA Regional Administrator Gregory Sopkin. “The Rock Springs facility will be the first phosphoric acid production place in the nation to secure financial assurance of its gypstack solely through surety bonds, ensuring that taxpayer dollars will not be required for future closure or cleanup at the facility.”

This settlement resolves allegations under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) at the facility, including that Simplot failed to properly identify and manage certain waste streams as hazardous wastes. The settlement requires Simplot to implement process modifications designed to enable greater recovery and reuse of phosphate, a valuable resource. The settlement also requires Simplot to ensure that financial resources will be available when the time comes for environmentally sound closure of the facility.

Simplot’s Rock Springs facility manufactures phosphate products for agriculture and industry, including phosphoric acid and phosphate fertilizer, through processes that generate large quantities of acidic wastewater and a solid material called phosphogypsum. The phosphogypsum is deposited in a large pile known as a gypstack, and acidic wastewater is also routed to the gypstack. The gypstack at the Wyoming facility is fully lined and has a capacity to hold several billion gallons of acidic wastewater.  

This settlement also resolves alleged violations of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) for Simplot’s failure to report certain quantities of toxic chemicals in accordance with EPCRA standards.

Under the settlement, Simplot agrees to implement specific waste management measures valued at nearly $20 million. Significantly, these measures include extensive new efforts to recover and reuse the phosphate content within these wastes and avoid their disposal in the gypstack. The settlement also includes a detailed plan setting the terms for the future closure and long-term care of the gypstack. The settlement requires Simplot to immediately secure and maintain approximately $126 million in dedicated financing to ensure that funding for closure and long-term care will be available when the facility is eventually closed.

Simplot also agrees to submit revised EPCRA Form R reports (Toxic Release Inventory) for 2004 to 2013 to include estimates of certain metal compounds manufactured, processed, or otherwise used at the facility. Simplot will also pay a $775,000 civil penalty to resolve both the RCRA and EPCRA claims.

The agency previously has required through judicial and administrative settlements that 12 phosphate fertilizer facilities complete extensive injunctive relief and bring their operations into compliance with RCRA.

A consent decree formalizing the settlement was lodged today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming, and is subject to a 30-day public comment period and approval by the federal court. The consent decree can be viewed at the Department of Justice website: www.justice.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html

To learn more about this settlement: https://www.epa.gov/enforcement/simplot-settlement-information-sheet

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