EPA, Mercury Marine reach settlement on violations

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has reached an agreement with Mercury Marine on clean-air violations at the company's secondary aluminum production plant in Fond du Lac, Wis.

The agreement, which includes a $25,000 penalty, resolves EPA concerns that the engine maker violated a May 2005 consent order, requiring it to operate its equipment in compliance with EPA regulations. The EPA said the company had disclosed in a letter sent last July that it had used non-clean charge in its furnaces.

Mercury spokesman Steve Fleming told Soundings Trade Only the violation was inadvertent.

“We purchase a large amount of aluminum to smelt,” he said. “It’s our responsibility to make sure the aluminum is the right grade. We inadvertently missed a single basket and smelted it. We then discovered it and turned ourselves in.

“The result of what we did is minor, but we’re still doing what we can to obey the law,” Fleming added. “I think we’re very conscientious of not only obeying the law, but also doing the right thing.

“These laws were made to protect the environment,” he said. “We felt good about doing the right thing.”

Fleming said Mercury has taken steps to make sure this mistake does not happen again.

Secondary aluminum plants can emit excessive amounts of hydrocarbons, particulates, dioxins and furans when they use non-clean charge in their furnaces, according to the EPA.

Hydrocarbons contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone, or smog, which is formed when a mixture of pollutants react on warm, sunny days. Smog can cause respiratory problems, including coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and chest pain.

People with asthma, children and the elderly are especially at risk. Inhaling high concentrations of particulates can affect children, the elderly and people with heart and lung diseases the most, according to the EPA. The agency also said there’s evidence dioxins may cause liver damage and probably cause cancer in humans, while furans may also cause cancer.

— Melanie Winters
m.winters@tradeonlytoday.com

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