Oil giant settles in hazardous waste case

Oil giant ExxonMobil has agreed to settle a case brought by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) involving more than 1billion gallons of illegally stored hazardous waste.

The case relates to a site in Pasadena, Texas, where ExxonMobil was found in violation of environmental laws after comingling hazardous materials with wastewater in the site’s massive waste impoundments.

In an interesting twist, however, the 509-acre plot was in fact sold by ExxonMobil over a decade ago but as part of the sale agreement, responsibility for waste storage was retained by the group.

Now operated by Texas-based Agrifos Fertilizer, the site hosts a mineral processing facility; extracting phosphorus from mineral ores to produce phosphoric acid, used in fertilizer.

EPA investigations at the Pasadena site were part of a series of operations across the US, specifically targeting the phosphoric acid industry due to what the EPA describe as “the high risk” of such sites contaminating groundwater with acidic wastewater.

Indeed, the EPA claim that mining and mineral processing centres generate more toxic and hazardous waste than any other industrial sector.

While neither ExxonMobil nor the EPA have released a statement following the decision to settle, it is believed Exxon will now be forced to spend in excess of $150million to close the site’s impoundments and dispose of the stored hazardous waste. As part of the settlement Exxon will also be responsible for post-closure care, including groundwater monitoring from the impoundments for the next 50 years.

Sam Plester

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