EPA, Indiana Sues Metalworking Lubricants for Toxic Emissions

On Friday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the State of Indiana filed a complaint in the Southern District of Indiana against Metalworking Lubricants Company for allegedly emitting excessively high amounts of “hazardous” air pollutants which violated the Clean Air Act.

MLC held a Federally Enforceable State Operating Permit (FESOP), which provides for the emissions that the company is legally allowed to produce and release into the environment determined by the Indiana Department for Environmental Management (IDEM). Under the permit, MLC had to record “the total static pressure drop” across their air scrubber, and if it was outside of the normal range the FESOP required them to take responsive steps to correct the issue.

However, after receiving odor complaints from the surrounding community, the EPA investigated MLC on July 8, 2011, and found that they had “failed to take reasonable steps when the pressure drop of the scrubber was out of range and had failed to maintain scrubber pressure logs.”

Upon further investigation, the EPA found that from March 2011 to June 2013, MLC’s scrubber was outside of the acceptable range for 356 days, including a 21 day consecutive time period, which meant that MLC was neglecting to properly maintain their air scrubber. By February 2017, the plaintiffs found that there were “more than 1,000 occasions” where the air scrubber’s values were outside of the acceptable range, which caused MLC to release more toxic chemicals into the air than they were authorized to do. Thus, the EPA and the State of Indiana are suing for five violations of the FESOP, for excessively emitting toxins from their facility, and for a violation of Title V.

Indiana is seeking civil penalties of up to $37,500 per day for each violation that occurred before November 2nd, 2015, and $109,024 per day for each violation that occurred after November 2nd, 2015; civil penalties of up to $25,000 per day for each violation of their permits, injunctive relief, attorney’s fees and costs, and other relief.