Honeywell to pay $6M to settle polluted water lawsuit - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Honeywell to pay $6M to settle polluted water lawsuit

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Posted: Thursday, August 7, 2008 12:29 pm | Updated: 11:56 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Honeywell International has agreed to pay a $5 million civil fine and contribute an additional $1 million to fund a regional climate-change study to settle charges the company violated Arizona clean-water laws for more than 30 years.

GRAPHIC: View a map of the contaminated area

Honeywell International has agreed to pay a $5 million civil fine and contribute an additional $1 million to fund a regional climate-change study to settle charges the company violated Arizona clean-water laws for more than 30 years.

Click to view a map of the contaminated area
SOURCE: Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, Honeywell, 52nd Street Superfund Site, Leaking solvents and jet fuel from the Honeywell International plant contributed to groundwater contamination in central Phoenix.143, 202, 60, 101, 7, 51, Contaminated groundwater, Central Ave., Sky Harbor Airport, 32nd St., 7th St., 16th St., 24th St., 40th St., 48th St., 44th St., Buckeye Rd., Washington St., Van Buren St., Salt River, McDowell Rd., University Dr., 52nd St., Graphic by Ed Taylor, Gabriel Utasi/TRIBUNE

The penalties, announced Thursday, settle a lawsuit filed by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality and the Arizona Attorney General's office over the alleged groundwater pollution from the company's 34th Street complex near Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.

In a statement, Honeywell said the agreement settles all environmental enforcement matters at the plant.

"We are committed to remaining a valuable member of the community and to ensuring continued compliance with all environmental regulations," the statement said.

The corporation, which is based in Morris Township, N.J., and maintains its aerospace headquarters in the Valley, said it uses a management system to monitor its environmental activities. "When we detect an environment issue ... we work proactively to resolve it," the firm said.

ADEQ Director Steve Owens said toxic chemicals such as vinyl chloride and trichloroethylene along with jet fuel have leaked into the groundwater from the plant, where Honeywell makes aircraft engines.

Also alleged are that solvents were discharged into the Phoenix sewer system without permits and that the company knowingly failed to disclose the contamination to government officials as required by law.

The settlement is the third-largest civil settlement in ADEQ history. The largest penalty obtained by the department was an $11.19 million settlement with TRW in a hazardous waste dumping case in east Mesa. The second largest was a $7.75 million pact with Northstar Steel for alleged air-quality violations.

The Honeywell settlement also resolves allegations the company improperly stored hazardous waste and failed to train employees on proper handling and emergency procedures. In one violation, Owens said ADEQ inspectors found that cyanide-containing wastewater was stored next to wastewater containing chromic acid. When combined, the two substances react to form deadly cyanide gas, he said.

Owens said Honeywell's activities contributed to the 52nd Street Superfund site, a swath of contaminated groundwater that stretches from east Phoenix across the central city. Several companies including Honeywell and Motorola contributed to the contamination dating back to the 1950s and are paying tens of millions of dollars toward its cleanup under a separate agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Owens said the EPA cleanup - which involves pumping out the groundwater, removing the toxic contaminants and injecting the clean water back underground - will take many years to complete.

Owens said Honeywell has improved its environmental compliance after years of resistance.

"The company has made a lot of progress at this facility in the last few years, due to both a change in attitude and a change in leadership," he said.

As part of the settlement, Owens said Honeywell has conducted environmental audits at all of its Arizona sites and disclosed findings and corrective actions to ADEQ. The company also has upgraded its fuel system to prevent leaks in the future and is cleaning up fuel-contaminated soil and groundwater beneath the Sky Harbor plant.

The water settlement is the second major environmental fine related to the factory in recent weeks. Two weeks ago Honeywell agreed to pay record penalties of more than $3 million to Maricopa County to settle air-quality issues.

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