Union Electric Company Cited for Chemical Releases

Oct. 5, 2001
The EPA charges that the Union Electric Co., also known as AmerenUE, in Venice, Ill., (near East St. Louis) failed to promptly report a 5,973-pound release of ferric sulfate.

Region 5 of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is claiming that the Union Electric Co., also known as AmerenUE, in Venice, Ill., (near East St. Louis) failed to promptly report a 5,973-pound release of ferric sulfate. The agency has filed an administrative complaint against Union Electric Co. for violation of federal laws on the reporting of a hazardous chemical release and has proposed a $35,065 fine.

According to EPA, a plastic pipe that was connected to a storage tank at the company''s facility at 701 Main St. developed a stress crack and the contents of the tank emptied onto the ground around 10 a.m. on Dec. 27, 2000. The release did not leave the facility boundaries.

Federal laws require facilities to immediately notify the National Response Center about any ferric sulfate release above 1,000 pounds. The incident was reported to the NRC at 2:15 p.m., more than four hours after the release. Ferric sulfate solution can be an irritant to the mucous membranes, respiratory tract and lung tissue, and can cause burns to the skin or the inner eyelids. If ingested, it can cause burns to the digestive tract.

This is not the company''s first experience with an accidental leak. An earlier EPA administrative complaint stemming from an incident on March 2, 1995, which involved a 73,400-pound sulfuric acid release, was settled for a $5,000 penalty and a $24,033 environmental project in November 1997.

"Releases of hazardous materials can pose a serious threat to public health and the environment," said regional Superfund Director William Muno. "Notifications of releases must happen in a timely manner so emergency responders know what they are confronting when they arrive at the scene of an incident."

Under federal emergency response laws, facilities cited must answer the complaint within 30 days. They may also request a meeting with EPA during the 30-day period to discuss or contest a proposed penalty.

by Sandy Smith

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