Toxic TCE Released to Huntington's Air Sept. 11-15, 2008, per EPA Settlement; Authorities not Immediately Notified of Release

Toxic TCE Released to Huntington's Air Sept. 11-15, 2008, per EPA Settlement; Authorities not Immediately Notified of Release

Thistle Processing, now a holding of Special Metals / Precision Castparts, signed a September 27, 2013 consent order with US EPA pertaining to  releases  September 11, 2008 to September 15, 2008 of trichloroethylene ("TCE"), a volatile  organic compound, from a vapor degreaser at the Facility. In addition to violation of their state permit, the emissions violated the Clean Air Act, Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) and the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA).

The order indicates that 5,280 pounds of the substance was released which traveled beyond the boundaries of the plant. Plant operators failed to immediately report the release . The State Emergency Response Center (SERC) and Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) were required to have been given  notification. The WV Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Managment  was not notified until 49 days later. The National Response Center was not notified until seven days later, the order states.

Thistle is engaged in the pre processing  of nickel scrap to recycle and reuse said scrap. An amendment to the WV permit at the facility allowed TCE emissions "not to exceed 2.17 pounds per hour or 9.5 tons per year."

Systems designed to reduce air emissions during the September 11-15, 2008 time frame did not properly operate, including a refrigeration unit, a carbon abatement unit, a flame ionization detector and a distillation unit. The vapor degreaser ceased circulation of refrigerant, thus "the unit did not condense vaporized TCE."

According to the epagov website, health effects of TCE could include:

 Exposure to TCE has been reported to have adverse effects on the central nervous system, immune system, and endocrine (hormonal) system in adults (1). Reported effects often involve the central nervous system, with reported symptoms of fatigue, sleepiness, headache, confusion, and blurred vision (1, 3). Other effects on liver, kidney, gastrointestinal tract, and skin have been reported (1, 3). Available data suggest that exposure to TCE is associated with cancer of the kidney and other organs (1, 10-12).

The U.S. EPA IRIS reassessment of TCE is ongoing and includes analysis of noncancer and cancer data (10, 12). Some studies have reported an association between maternal TCE exposure during pregnancy and Increased risk of heart defects (13, 14), other birth defects (15), and very low birth weight (16) in their children. Other studies found no such associations (17, 18). Of three reported studies on childhood TCE exposure and cancer, none of the studies found a significant association (17, 19, 20). Some experimental animal studies suggested in utero exposure to TCE may result in an increased incidence of heart abnormalities in the offspring (14-16, 18).

Thistle Processing, LLC was a separate entity at 3190 Riverside Drive when the violations occurred. The company merged with Huntington Alloys (Precision Castparts) after the air releases. According to the EPA document Huntington Alloys "stands in the shoes" of Thistle due to its merger. A $160,000 fine has been issued. It is located within the plant perimeter, but not run by Special Metals management.

One possible impact of TCE release is groundwater contamination.

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