Oregon aluminum recycler receives $1.3M penalty

Hydro Extrusion allegedly had multiple air quality permit violations at its facility in The Dalles, Oregon.

January 10, 2020

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), The Dalles, Oregon, has issued a $1.3 million penalty to Hydro Extrusion USA LLC, which is a part of Norway-based Norsk Hydro that operates aluminum facilities worldwide, for multiple air quality permit violations at its aluminum recycling facility in The Dalles. 

According to a news release from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, the fine is the largest air quality penalty ever issued by the department, which also regulates land and water quality in the state. Prior to this penalty, the largest air quality permit penalty issued by the state’s DEQ was $303,169, and the largest ever penalty in any of Oregon’s DEQ program areas was $1.4 million for violations related to a fuel spill from underground storage tanks, the DEQ reports.

“DEQ found Hydro Extrusion operated with flagrant disregard for the rules and conditions of its air quality permit,” says Kieran O’Donnell, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality’s compliance and enforcement manager. “DEQ expects industrial facilities to adhere to the rules that are in place to protect the health of Oregon’s people and environment. Hydro Extrusion chose not to follow these rules, and DEQ is holding the facility accountable to ensure in the future it operates in full compliance with environmental laws.”

Hydro Extrusion’s facility in The Dalles melts aluminum scrap so it can be recycled into new products. The state’s DEQ and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reportedly discovered the violations during an unannounced inspection in April 2019. The facility’s air quality permit allows it to melt only “clean charge”—material that’s free of oil and grease, paints or other coatings; however, the DEQ found the facility processed unclean, coated aluminum scrap for more than a year, according to a news release from the DEQ on the penalty. Processing this material is prohibited under the facility’s permit.

The DEQ says it found that the facility did not conduct the required tracking and monitoring intended to prevent the processing of unclean charge. It also failed to keep required records, the company submitted inaccurate certifications to the DEQ and it exceeded the allowable rate of an additive used to improve product quality, the DEQ reports in a news release.

After identifying the violations, the DEQ says it ordered the facility to stop using unclean aluminum, improve its tracking and monitoring program and submit monthly records for the DEQ to verify compliance. The DEQ reports that Hydro Extrusion has improved its scrap monitoring program at the facility in The Dalles and certified to the DEQ that it has stopped processing prohibited material.

The majority of the penalty, about $1 million, is the estimated economic benefit the facility gained by avoiding the cost to install and maintain pollution control equipment, the DEQ says. If the facility installs control equipment, the DEQ may recalculate the economic benefit portion of the penalty.

Hydro Extrusion may appeal the alleged violations within 20 days of receiving the penalty notice.