Honeywell plant in Hopewell

Honeywell plant in Hopewell

Virginia environmental officials and Honeywell have reached an agreement calling for the company to make more than $13 million in improvements at its Hopewell chemical plant and pay a $300,000 penalty following several spills there.

The state Department of Environmental Quality announced the deal, a proposed consent order, Monday.

The public can comment on the order through Sept. 23. The order then goes to the State Water Control Board for final approval Oct. 1. DEQ officials serve as staff to the water board.

The issue involves spills of materials such as nitric acid, methyl ethyl ketone, caprolactam, oil and gasoline from mid-2013 to early this year, DEQ officials said.

One of the more recent spills, in November 2014, killed more than 2,000 fish in Gravelly Run, a tributary of the James River, the officials said.

Under the order, Honeywell agrees to pay the $300,000 civil penalty and upgrade sewer pipes that had deteriorated, resulting in the spills, DEQ officials said. Fixing those pipes and related structures is expected to cost more than $13 million.

“The entire system is old, and that is why it is being upgraded,” DEQ spokesman Bill Hayden said.

Honeywell spokesman Peter Dalpe said, “The facility has already completed a number of improvements covered by the proposed consent decree and is planning significant additional investments over the next five years to address the remaining items, in cooperation with the Virginia DEQ.”

He added, “The company is committed to health, safety and the environment at all its facilities” and is spending tens of millions of dollars to make those kinds of improvements at Hopewell.

Honeywell’s Hopewell plant is one of the world’s largest producers of caprolactam, the main ingredient in making nylon. It also is one of the largest producers of ammonium sulfate fertilizer, a co-product of making caprolactam.

The agreement also addresses violations involving water-quality monitoring and reporting, DEQ officials said.

“DEQ has issued 14 enforcement orders to (the Hopewell plant) since 1990,” the agency said in a news release. “In addition, a joint consent decree by DEQ and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was issued to Honeywell in 2013 for air quality violations.”

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