US aluminium recycling facility issued record $1.2 million penalty

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) issued a $1,296,885 (€1,168,705) penalty to aluminium recycler Hydro Extrusion USA for multiple air quality permit violations at its facility in The Dalles, Wasco County. It is the largest air quality penalty ever issued by DEQ, which also regulated land and water quality in the state.

Hydro Extrusion is part of Norsk Hydro, a Norway-based firm that runs aluminium facilities globally, including several in the US. The facility in The Dalles melts down aluminium scrap so that it can be recycled into new products.

“DEQ found Hydro Extrusion operated with flagrant disregard for the rules and conditions of its air quality permit,” said Kieran O’Donnell, DEQ compliance and enforcement manager. “DEQ expects industrial facilities to adhere to the rules that are in place to protect the health of Oregon’s people and environment.

“Hydro Extrusion chose not to follow these rules, and DEQ is holding the facility accountable to ensure in the future it operates in full compliance with environmental laws.”

DEQ and the US Environmental Protection Agency discovered the violations following an unannounced inspection of the facility in April 2019. The plant’s air quality permit allows it to melt down only ‘clean charge’ material that is free of oil and grease, paints and other coatings. However, DEQ found the facility processed unclean, coated aluminium scrap for more than one year, which is prohibited under the facility’s permit.

DEQ also found the facility did not conduct the required tracking and monitoring intended to prevent the processing of unclean charge, failed to keep required records, submitted inaccurate certifications and exceeded the allowable rate of an additive used to improve product quality.

Hydro Extrusion has been ordered to stop using unclean aluminium, improve its tracking and monitoring programme and submit monthly records so DEQ can verify compliance. The majority of the penalty - $1,063,485 (€958,450) – is the estimated economic benefit the company gained by avoiding the cost of installing and maintaining pollution control equipment. According to DEQ, if the facility installs the equipment, it may recalculate the economic benefit portion of the penalty.

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