Environmental agency orders company to repair system and stop production of herbicide

June 30, 1998|BY A SUN STAFF WRITER

Responding to a chemical accident last month, the Maryland Department of the Environment has ordered FMC Corp.'s south city plant to stop producing one of its herbicides and to take several steps to prevent future spills.

MDE's order, delivered to the company in a letter dated June 19, suggests that FMC could be fined as much as $75,000, but does not make clear under what circumstances such a penalty would be imposed.

In the May 15 spill, an incorrectly calibrated flow meter heated an herbicide mixture to 350 degrees, creating so much pressure that the mixture spewed from a broken expansion joint and two vents, FMC officials said.

Company officials have promised a full investigation.

Residents of nearby Wagner's Point complained that a gaseous plume from the accident left the plant and irritated their noses and throats. "Obviously, all the residents saw and smelled something, and so we're concerned," said Bernie Penner, enforcement and compliance coordinator for MDE.

The company has 30 days to survey its production processes, find potential problems and identify ways to fix them, MDE said. Within 60 days, FMC must submit a plan explaining how it will comply with air quality regulations.

Pub Date: 6/30/98

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