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Merrill Fab to pay $60,000 for air pollution violation

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MADISON, Wis. (WSAU) -- A Merrill manufacturer will be paying $60,000 for an air pollution permit violation that happened nearly five years ago. Merrill Fab will have to pay that amount in forfeitures and court costs for exceeding the allowed emissions of toluene and xylene in their metal coating process.

Neil Baudhuin is with the Department of Natural Resources. He says the process of investigating this type of environmental violation takes time.  “The company notified us first of all that they had the violations, and then we have to go through and confirm what those were and make sure that they have accounted for all of the emissions that they had at the time, and that takes a little bit of time.”

He says the regulations are the same nationwide except for very small operations.  “The regulations are federal EPA regulations that we incorporate into Wisconsin law, and it’s regulating hazardous air pollutants which can have very severe effects on people, and it’s the same regulations that apply no matter where you are in the country, and they exceeded their limitation by anywhere from 3% to 17% over the limits.”

The Merrill plant paints metal parts, and Baudhuin says the chemicals that evaporate off the paint were the problem.  “They have metal parts and they’re painting them with materials that they use, liquid materials, and then the toluene and xylene are carriers, so that evaporates off from the systems, so if wafts out into the air and disperses. There’s limitations on how much of that material they can emit.”

Baudhuin says Merrill Fab was able to work with their paint supplier to modify the composition of the coating product to reduce the emissions, helping them get in compliance with the EPA guidelines.

The Attorney General’s office handled the civil complaint, which says Merrill Fab violated state law when it exceeded its emissions limitation for hazardous air pollutants from October 2009 through July 2010. Merrill Fab self-reported the exceedances, and thereafter took steps to bring its emissions into compliance with the permit. The facility has been in compliance since August 2010.

The DNR and the Attorney General’s Office say Merrill Fab cooperated with them to expeditiously resolve the enforcement action brought as a result of the violations.

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