The U.S. Department of Justice, the Environmental Protection Agency, and State of Colorado have announced a large-scale bottling company based in the town of Wheat Ridge has settled on an agreement mandating it install emissions controls to its glass furnaces, which will eliminate over 200 tons of nitrogen oxides and 150 tons of sulfur dioxide annually. It will also improve compliance with federal and state clean air laws.
Nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide are two pollutants typically emitted by glass manufacturing facilities. These substances can be very harmful to the health and safety of citizens living near the plant if emission levels are not regulated.
"This agreement is a step toward improving local and regional air quality in an area that is facing challenges in meeting standards for ground-level ozone, or smog," said Deb Thomas, EPA's acting regional administrator in Denver in a news release.
The area of Wheat Ridge, a northwestern suburb of Denver, is classified as a moderate ozone nonattainment area, meaning the air does not meet acceptable levels of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards, set by the EPA in the Clean Air Act. Things like nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, and other volatile organic compounds are considered ozone precursors which could, when activated by sunlight, create a harmful layer of ground level ozone. This ozone is harmful to susceptible demographics like individuals suffering from lung diseases, children and the elderly.
According to the Denver Post, the EPA began an initiative to review facilities at businesses that manufacture glass. Violations were then issued during a preliminary visit to the Wheat Ridge facility and an investigation followed.
The investigation resulted in a site inspection and a review of emissions data from 1997 onward. Inspectors made the discovery the bottling company made unauthorized modifications to its furnaces, which all use a central stack to vent emissions into the atmosphere.
Nitrogen oxide controls were temporarily installed on only one of three furnaces, and the complaint stated the company listed the nonexistent controls on its permit application, then continued operation without adhering to EPA emission limits.
"The complaint arises from a longstanding dispute regarding furnace modifications performed over 20 years ago that the EPA contends was improperly permitted," wrote Marty Maloney, spokesperson for the company, in a statement for the Denver Post. "... We chose to proactively work with the EPA and the State of Colorado to agree on a solution that will result in cleaner technology, lower emissions and state-of-the-art environmental controls."
The bottling facility agreed to operate controls reducing its nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide levels by 60 percent, and also install systems to continuously monitor those emissions on an hourly basis. All systems must be installed by the end of March 2018 and the company must also pay a $475,000 civil penalty for violating the Clean Air Act.
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