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“Life threatening” violations found at lead recycler Gopher Resources US plant

Wed, 07/14/2021 - 08:26 -- Paul Crompton
Gopher Resources recycling plant in Tampa Florida, US

Lead recycling firm Gopher Resources was in breach of 14 violations of the air pollution permits and regulations at its Tampa, US, plant.

Florida regulator the Hillsborough County Environmental Protection Commission (EPC) confirmed the breaches following its investigation of violations first reported by the Tampa Bay Times newspaper.

The violations include “life threatening” levels of SO2 and CO in employee workspaces, removal of exhaust hoods designed to capture noxious fumes, hazardous-liquid leaks, lead-laced dust blanketing the plant floor.

The violation covered poor operation, maintenance and design of the fugitive capture and ventilation systems; poor operation and maintenances of the Process and Hygiene Baghouse Shaker Systems; violations associated with SO2 emissions from the Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP). 

For a list of the Tampa Bay Times allegations click here.

The EPC launched its inquiry into Gopher Resource in April after the Times highlighted dangerous conditions inside the plant in March.

The release of the report is a first step that could result in fines or sanctions. 

In June, a former worker at the site filed a law suit against Gopher Resources, reported the Times.

Gopher responds to accusations

Gopher Resources told BEST: "Gopher has consistently stated that it will cooperate with all local, state, and federal agencies that regulate its operations in its ongoing effort to improve the overall safety and environmental performance of its plant. As the EPC report acknowledges, well before EPC began its inspection, Gopher took concrete actions to address the historical claims that the EPC report attempts to validate.  

"Although the EPC report identifies a number of conditions that it labels as "potential” air violations, the EPC report confirms that Gopher has been and remains in compliance with applicable Clean Air Act emission limitations. In fact, Gopher’s lead emissions are very low— more than 50% below the emission limits set by EPA that we are required to meet. Gopher’s positive performance with respect to emissions reflects the substantial and continuing investment Gopher has made in plant improvements.  

"Gopher has a long-standing, strong, working relationship with EPC and continues to welcome its input on changes and improvements that would make Gopher’s performance even better. EPC has conducted more than 100 inspections of the Gopher facility, and we were pleased to work with EPC on this latest one. Gopher is reviewing EPC's detailed report and will continue to work with EPC to implement any needed changes in our systems, processes and results.  

'With respect to workplace conditions, we continue to cooperate with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and we look forward to any recommendations they may make to help enhance our current efforts to protect our employees. We remain confident in our workplace safety program, which has led to a sustained and consistent decrease in average blood lead levels since 2006."

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