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Voice your opinion May 4 about AZR decree

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection will hold a virtual public meeting from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. May 4 to take comment from the public on a proposed settlement with American Zinc Recycling Corp.

In February, the EPA announced the U.S. and PADEP had settled a federal-state lawsuit citing violations of air, water and hazardous waste environmental laws at AZR’s facility in Palmerton.

In settlement papers filed on Jan. 19 in federal court in Scranton, AZR has agreed to carry out an estimated $4.3 million in measures to comply with federal and state environmental laws.

This settlement is expected to result in an estimated 47 million pounds of reductions of pollution from the AZR facility, including 25 million pounds of electric arc furnace dust over three years. AZR also will pay a $3.3 million penalty.

The complaint and proposed consent decree were filed by the U.S. Justice Department, on behalf of the EPA and PADEP.

The $3.3 million penalty will be divided equally between the U.S. and Pennsylvania.

This settlement will help protect the community of Palmerton from exposure to harmful pollutants as well as hazardous waste,” said Larry Starfield, EPA acting assistant administrator for the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “In particular, I am very pleased that the settlement will address fugitive emissions of lead dust that are posing a public health risk to families living as far as 3 miles away.”

“This settlement resulted from the commitment and hard work of EPA’s staff, who worked diligently with Justice Department attorneys and Pa. DEP officials. The negotiated resolution protects the environment and public health of the surrounding community,” said Acting EPA Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator Diana Esher.


AZR is the corporate successor of Horsehead Corporation, which emerged from bankruptcy in September 2016. The AZR facility in Palmerton is located on Aquashicola Creek, which flows into the Lehigh River.

The facility, which has operated for more than 100 years, reclaims zinc from electric arc furnace dust, a hazardous waste.

The facility also generates waste kiln rubble, which includes hazardous lead and cadmium. Aboveground oil tanks at the facility have an aggregate 61,000-gallon storage capacity.

This is the second time that the U.S. and Pennsylvania have jointly taken federal judicial enforcement action for violations at this facility.

A 1995 consent decree addressed alleged air, water and hazardous waste violations for not complying with requirements for management of lead concentrate.

The penalty in today’s settlement includes $500,000 in stipulated penalties that resolve violations of the 1995 consent decree.

At EPA’s request, the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry evaluated nearby residents’ exposure to lead in the air.

The evaluation, released in July 2018, identified a public health concern regarding airborne lead within three miles of the facility, which was discussed with the community during a public meeting in Palmerton in early October 2018 conducted by EPA, ATSDR and Pennsylvania DEP.


In recent years, EPA and DEP conducted joint inspections of the AZR facility and cooperated closely in evaluating environmental data. The complaint alleges violations of several environmental statutes:

Clean Air Act: violations of lead, carbon dioxide, particulate matter, nitrogen oxide emission limits; violations of fugitive dust emissions limits; violations of record keeping, reporting and testing requirements.

Clean Water Act: violations of permit discharge limits for cadmium pH, and zinc; discharge of contact cooling water; sampling and monitoring violations; violations of stormwater management safeguards, including failure to ensure process wastewater did not combine with stormwater; violations of Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure equipment, containment, inspection, training, and SPCC plan requirements.

Resource Conservation and Recovery Act: violations of RCRA hazardous waste management and storage requirements, including operation without a permit; failure to take necessary steps to prevent release of hazardous waste, failure to conduct required training; and failure to comply with hazardous waste marking, labeling, container closure requirements.

Emergency Preparedness and Community Right-to-Know Act: violations of toxic chemical record keeping and reporting requirements for lead compounds.

Consent decree

The proposed consent decree was subject to a 30-day public comment period. During the comment period, EPA received three requests for a public meeting. The May 4 virtual meeting is in response to those requests.

To participate, go to https://bit.ly/3x19Jee or call in at 484-352-3221, Phone Conference ID: 581 309 786#

American Zinc Recycling operation in Palmerton. TIMES NEWS FILE PHOTO