Upper Delaware River manufacturer agrees to nearly $3M settlement over air and water pollution
| September 5, 2023
A food products manufacturer with a plant in the Upper Delaware River in Delhi, N.Y., has agreed to a nearly $3 million settlement with state and federal authorities over repeated water and air pollution violations that included excessive discharges into the West Branch of the Delaware River, officials said.
The New York State Attorney General’s Office and the U.S. Department of Justice last month announced a consent decree with the company, FrieslandCampina Ingredients North America, to settle violations of air emission and water discharges that exceeded regulatory standards from 2016 through 2021.
Half of the $2.88 million penalty the company will pay will go to New York, which will use the money for projects that benefit public health and the environment in the Delhi area, officials said.
In addition to the penalty, the company has already spent about $6 million to comply with Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act rules by, among other things, installing equipment to properly control emissions, upgrade its wastewater pretreatment plant and other corrective measures.
Friesland’s water discharges “routinely” violated the federal Clean Water Act with pollutants at levels that threatened drinking water supplies and the local aquatic environment, New York’s attorney general, Letitia James, said in a statement.
“For years, FrieslandCampina ignored their obligation and the law, and as a result, put New Yorkers at substantial risk,” she said.
The plant is within New York City’s reservoir watershed.
State officials said that on multiple occasions, the company facility on Route 10, which produces high-quality proteins for early life nutrition and biopharma applications, discharged cooling water at temperatures that exceeded the limits spelled out in its permit and introduced untreated pollutants into the Village of Delhi’s wastewater treatment plant in quantities that can pass through or interfere with treatment.
“All these discharges were released, either directly or indirectly, to the West Branch of the Delaware River — a world-class wild trout fishery and part of the New York City water supply system,” according to the statement.
Friesland will implement a supplemental environmental project to reduce the adverse impacts of its discharges of heated water and the overall environmental risk to the Delaware River, by converting its non-contact cooling water system to a recirculating closed-loop system, the Justice Department said.
The new system will reduce Friesland’s discharges of heated water to the West Branch by approximately 85 percent. This is critical because trout are a cold-water species that cannot survive in higher temperatures.
Federal officials said the company also failed to comply with the requirements of a state industrial stormwater permit, which prohibits the exposure of industrial materials and activities to rain, snow, snowmelt or runoff that can transport pollutants to surface waters.
A company spokesman, Jan-Willem ter Avest, took note of the multimillion-dollar improvements at its Delhi plant and said it would continue to implement “sustainable and environmentally beneficial practices” there in keeping with the company’s “Nourishing a Better Planet” program.
Among other things, that program promotes a good living for farmers, sustainable packaging, sustainable sourcing of raw materials and climate neutrality.
Air pollution violations
In addition to the water pollution violations, the company failed to accurately report emissions of toluene, a toxic chemical listed as a hazardous air pollutant under the federal Clean Air Act, officials said.
The company also failed to obtain the proper air permits for the emissions and failed to install the necessary technologies to limit air releases of toluene, officials said.
Exposure to toluene can damage the nervous system and harm kidney, liver and immune function. Toluene emissions also contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone or “smog.”
“This settlement will result in a 95 percent reduction of toluene emissions into the air, as well as significant reductions in discharges of pollutants into the West Branch of the Delaware River, which is a drinking water source,” said Lisa F. Garcia, the regional administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “EPA’s work will benefit the people of Delhi and will result in a healthier Delaware River for all who enjoy and rely on it.”