WATERFORD – Momentive Performance Materials Silicones has agreed to pay a $1.25 million civil penalty to resolve a complaint alleging violations of federal and state environmental laws in connection with the firm's use of an incinerator.
The settlement was announced jointly Thursday by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of New York, the Department of Justice, the Environmental Protection Agency, the state Attorney General’s Office and the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
The settlement was finalized Thursday in U.S. District Court in Albany.
“Our laws provide essential protections to New Yorkers' health, safety, and environment,” said Attorney General Schneiderman, in a prepared statement. “(Momentive) flouted clean air and hazardous waste laws at its Waterford facility and, as a result, released harmful, toxic chemical into the surrounding community thousands of times. We won't hesitate to act to protect New Yorkers and bring to justice anyone who violates the law."
Momentive downplayed the violations later Thursday.
"This represents the final resolution to an issue that Momentive corrected more than eight years ago after identifying the issue that began under GE’s ownership, and for which there is no indication of any significant impact on the environment," said company spokesman John Kompa, in a prepared statement. "We have cooperated with the state and federal authorities throughout their inquiry and are pleased that the issue has been fully resolved.
"We remain committed to the safe and lawful operations of all our facilities, including Waterford, and the protection of our employees, communities, and the environment.
The civil complaint settled by the fine alleges Momentive, which bought the Waterford facility from GE in 2006 and generates hazardous waste through the manufacture of silicone products, sought and received permits from the DEC to treat and dispose of the hazardous waste, subject to compliance with the Clean Air Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.
Momentive disposed of the waste by burning it in a rotary kiln incinerator that included an automatic system designed to shut down the incinerator if Momentive deviated from operating parameters set forth in its permits. The automatic cut-off system was specifically designed to ensure compliance with environmental laws, according to the statement issued by the Attorney General's office Thursday.
Momentive, however, manually overrode the system, allowing it to continue to burn excessive amounts of hazardous waste, in violation of its permits, according to the AG's office.
On numerous occasions between Dec. 4 and Dec. 31, 2008, Momentive employees overrode the system, thereby releasing various harmful air pollutants into the community, the AG's office said.
“Violations of New York State’s environmental laws and regulations are serious offenses with serious consequences,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “This fine is the result of the collaborative efforts of state and federal partners working together to protect our communities. New York State has zero tolerance for anyone who rigs the system to break environmental laws that protect public health and the environment.
"I commend DEC environmental conservation officers Major Scott Florence and Investigator Karen Staniewski who led this effort to hold these polluters accountable, as well as DEC engineers Thomas Killeen and James Coutant, who provided invaluable technical oversight.”
In 2015, Attorney Schneiderman, DEC, EPA, and DOJ entered into a settlement with General Electric for similar clean-air and hazardous waste violations during the company’s ownership of the facility. Momentive continued operating the facility in a similar manner, according to the AG's office.