DEP Takes Formal Enforcement Against Thatcher Chemical In Response to Offenses in Two Locations

On March 24, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection annoucned it recently  initiated formal enforcement action against Thatcher Chemical of Florida, Inc. following inspections of two of its facilities in Florida. The investigations identified numerous violations of State environmental regulations, prompting immediate corrective actions, including cleanup of contaminated soil. The Department is requiring additional corrective actions and payment of civil penalties in excess of $230,000.

Thatcher Chemical of Florida, Inc. is a chemical production facility operating at locations in DeLand and Palmetto. The DeLand facility was inspected by Department staff in August 2013 following an anonymous complaint that chemicals were being buried on site. The Department responded immediately and identified a significant amount of waste and contaminated soil at the facility. It is estimated between 2010 and 2011, facility staff buried 100 to 200 thousand pounds of ferric sulfate sludge, a byproduct of the facility’s production process, in the wooded area behind the plant.

In addition to burying hazardous materials, the facility also had illicit discharges of pollutants in the ground. In January, Department staff inspected Thatcher Chemical’s Palmetto site and identified discharges of pollutants to the ground and to the stormwater management system near that facility.

“The Department of Environmental Protection takes our role of protecting public health and the environment serious and we are committed to making sure facilities are in compliance with applicable regulations,” said Jeff Prather, Director of DEP’s Central District. “When a business takes actions that are calculated, grossly negligent, and potentially harmful to the environment, we will pursue formal enforcement with maximum penalties.”

The Department strives to help businesses understand and adhere to Florida’s rules and regulations, and to minimize the possibility of environmental harm. However, when Florida’s laws and the Department’s efforts to assist with compliance are disregarded, formal enforcement action is initiated. In this case, violations in the management of hazardous waste have led to monetary penalties and corrective actions. Additionally, the Department is consulting with law enforcement officials to determine if criminal action is warranted.

Fortunately, a case like this is rare, and the vast majority of the nearly 75,000 facilities regulated by the Department are in compliance. In 2013, facilities considered in significant compliance with Florida Department of Environmental Protection rules and regulations rose to 96 percent, a two percent increase from 2012. This is based on tens of thousands of inspections and monitoring samples statewide. For more information on DEP’s compliance rates and outreach efforts click here.

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