WASHINGTON - A West Virginia-based metal recycler has agreed to implement “extensive, company-wide safeguards” to prevent future accidental releases of hazardous chemicals from its facilities.

According to the federal Environmental Protection Agency, the settlement will resolve alleged Clean Air Act violations stemming from an explosion at AL Solutions’ New Cumberland facility. The explosion at the chemical plant killed three people in December 2010.

“Since the explosion, the EPA and (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) have been working together to coordinate our investigations and share information,” EPA Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin said in a statement Thursday.

“Our combined efforts have resulted in settlements that provide a comprehensive framework for the company to build cutting-edge safeguards into its processes in order to protect people and the environment.”

AL Solutions recycles titanium and zirconium raw materials for use as alloying additives by aluminum producers. The 2010 explosion may have been caused by an accidental release of zirconium powder.

The EPA estimates that the company, which opened a new, automated facility in Burgettstown, Pa., earlier this year, will spend about $7.8 million to implement extensive measures to ensure compliance with environmental requirements and prevent accidental releases.

The company already has completed significant portions of the work required by the settlement and a prior administrative order.

Among those requirements, the company must use advanced monitoring technology, including hydrogen monitoring and infrared cameras, to assess hazardous chemical storage areas to prevent fires and explosions. They also must process or dispose of about 10,000 drums of titanium and zirconium, or 2.4 million pounds, being stored at facilities in New Cumberland and Weirton, W.Va., by December 2014 to reduce the risk of fire and explosion.

The company also will pay a $100,000 civil penalty to resolve the alleged CAA violations documented during EPA inspections of the New Cumberland and Washington, Mo., facilities following the explosion.

According to the EPA, the state of West Virginia is expected to file a separate complaint soon alleging that the company violated various provisions related to the unlawful storage of waste at the New Cumberland facility. The settlement will resolve those separate allegations.

And in a related action, AL Solutions recently agreed to pay the U.S. Department of Labor a total of $97,000 to resolve alleged OSHA violations.

The OSHA settlement, which is subject to final approval by an administrative law judge, requires expanded abatement measures that are consistent with the safeguards in the EPA’s settlement to provide ongoing worker safety protection at the company’s four facilities.

The EPA’s proposed consent decree, filed Dec. 18 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval.

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State of West Virginia U.S. Department of Labor U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

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