Pfizer Agrees to $975,000 Penalty for Clean Air Act Violations

June 26, 2008
Pfizer Inc. agreed to pay a $975,000 civil penalty to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Air Act at its former manufacturing plant in Groton, Conn., according to EPA and the Justice Department. The settlement is the first of its type in federal court under regulations designed to control the emissions of hazardous air pollutants from pharmaceutical manufacturing operations.

During its production of pharmaceutical-grade chemicals, Pfizer used substances such as methanol, hydrogen chloride, methylene chloride, MTBE, hexane, toluene and many others, which are classified by EPA as hazardous air pollutants under Section 112 of the Clean Air Act.

“All facilities that produce hazardous air pollutants must carefully adhere to all provisions of EPA’s Clean Air requirements to ensure that we are taking every necessary step to protect human health and our environment,” said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office.

The alleged violations, which occurred between October 2002 and December 2005, resulted from a failure of Pfizer’s leak detection and repair (LDAR) program at its former manufacturing plant in Groton. Violations included a failure to properly conduct pressure tests to identify leaks, repair leaks before start-up, equip open-ended lines with a cap or other seal and document leak tests to establish full compliance with the LDAR requirements.

The consent decree claims that Pfizer violated the National Emission Standards for Pharmaceuticals Production and the National Emission Standards for Organic Hazardous Air Pollutants for Equipment Leaks (PharmaMACT regulations) under the federal Clean Air Act.

PharmaMACT regulations impose industry-specific measures that must be implemented to control hazardous air pollutants in order to prevent harm to human health or the environment. The LDAR program sets forth various equipment, testing and record-keeping requirements to ensure that any leaks of air pollutants from equipment used in the manufacture of pharmaceutical products are timely detected and repaired.

Under the agreement, Pfizer certifies that the violations have been corrected. However, the violations undermined EPA’s ability to determine compliance, which presented the risk of excess emissions of hazardous air pollutants for leaks that were not timely detected and repaired. Pfizer’s Groton facility ceased pharmaceutical manufacturing in January 2008.

“Penalties such as this one compel the industry’s close attention and rigorous implementation of the leak detection requirements to prevent the escape of harmful air pollutants that can endanger the public,” said Ronald J. Tenpas, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s environment and natural resources division.

OccupationalHazards.com was unable to reach Pfizer for comment.

About the Author

Laura Walter

Laura Walter was formerly senior editor of EHS Today. She is a subject matter expert in EHS compliance and government issues and has covered a variety of topics relating to occupational safety and health. Her writing has earned awards from the American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE), the Trade Association Business Publications International (TABPI) and APEX Awards for Publication Excellence. Her debut novel, Body of Stars (Dutton) was published in 2021.

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