EPA Demands Improvements at Tonawanda Coke

Merchant supplier has 60 days to resolve accidental gas releases

Following an equipment failure in late March that led to a release of coke oven gas into the atmosphere, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has ordered Tonawanda Coke Corp. to find and fix deficiencies in the way that it operates its Western New York merchant coke plant.

EPA also is requiring TCC to explain the incident and a similar gas release in 2009. In both instances, coke oven gas was flared rather than treated.

Coke oven gas is a byproduct of the process that converts coal into a dense carbon-rich product used for steelmaking. The gas contains hydrogen sulfide, ammonia, sulfur dioxide and other substances determined to be toxic.

The EPA’s order requires Tonawanda Coke to determine how and why the equipment failed, fix the problems, and take steps to prevent them from happening again. The company was given 30 days to submit a repair and maintenance program, and 60 days identify the source of the problem

Separately, Tonawanda Coke was cited for allegedly violating the Clean Air Act by exceeding its emission limit for opacity, i.e., the amount of light obscured by particulate matter (e.g., smoke, dust, ash.)

“Our ongoing investigation of TCC, coupled with the recent equipment failures at the facility, highlight the importance of preparing for, preventing, and responding quickly to chemical releases in our communities,” stated Judith Enck, EPA Regional Administrator.

The Clean Air Act requires operators to design and maintain safe facilities, and to take all necessary measures to prevent air releases of regulated substances and extremely hazardous substances.

“This provision of the Clean Air Act is only used when there is serious risk of accidental releases because a facility is poorly operated. It is imperative that business and industry do their part to protect human health and the environment,” Enck continued. “TCC has a legal obligation to operate in compliance with environmental laws and to be prepared for incidents. The residents of the community and workers at the facility deserve nothing less.”

TAGS: Melt/Pour
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