Tuesday, September 24, 2019

DEP Reaches $19,410 Penalty Settlement With Luzerne County Soap Manufacturer

On September 24, the Department of Environmental Protection announced Henkel US Operations Corp. has agreed to pay a $19,410 civil penalty for 5 unpermitted discharges into a Luzerne County Creek, reporting violations, and failure to comply with monitoring and sampling requirements. 
The discharges from the company’s West Hazleton soap manufacturing plant resulted in soapy water and suds leaking into the creek two years ago.
“The department expects companies to comply with statutes and permits that protect our waterways from unlawful discharges; however, in this case, the company did not do that,” said Mike Bedrin, director of DEP’s Northeast Regional Office. “Companies have a responsibility to protect the waterways into which they are permitted to discharge.”
In January 2017, DEP responded to a complaint of foam in Black Creek and traced it to the opening of two storm drains on Henkel’s property. In response, Henkel cleaned and inspected two containment sumps and sealed attached piping. 
However, in early 2018, DEP received additional complaints from the public about soap suds covering the top and the banks of Black Creek and blowing into a nearby neighborhood. 
An investigation by staff from DEP and Henkel traced the discharged substance to an area just below the company’s stormwater outfall. 
The investigation subsequently revealed that a pipe used to convey Henkel’s wastewater to the nearby sewage treatment plant was damaged. This allowed the wastewater to seep into the ground near the stormwater line, resulting in the unpermitted discharges.
In addition to the unpermitted discharges by Henkel, the company did not notify DEP in writing of the discharges within five days of the event as per a condition of its operating permit. 
It also failed to comply with monitoring and sampling requirements that are part of its National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit.
DEP determined that Henkel’s unpermitted discharges and failure to comply with reporting, monitoring, and sampling requirements were violations of Henkel’s NPDES permit and the state’s Clean Streams Law.
DEP’s Bureau of Clean Water staff monitored the creek after the incident and did not identify indications of long-term impacts.
In addition to agreeing to pay the civil penalty, Henkel has installed a new wastewater line to replace the damaged line conveying flow to the public sewage treatment facility.
The civil penalty will go into the state’s Clean Water Fund, which provides funding for programs to promote water quality across the commonwealth.
Questions should be directed to Colleen Connolly, DEP Northeast Regional Office, by calling 570-826-2035 or send email to: coconnolly@pa.gov.

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