DOJ/EPA file lawsuit against mining company

The Department of Justice filed suit against Magnesium Corporation of America, its parent corporation Renco Metals Inc., and other related entities charging that the mineral mining company is illegally handling hazardous waste at its magnesium production plant on the edge of the Great Salt Lake.

Jan, 17, 2001—The Department of Justice filed suit against Magnesium Corporation of America, its parent corporation Renco Metals Inc., and other related entities charging that the mineral mining company is illegally handling hazardous waste at its magnesium production plant on the edge of the Great Salt Lake.

For many years, the MagCorp plant has ranked number one on the EPA's toxic release inventory, based on its chlorine emissions. The facility is the third largest producer of magnesium in the world.

In the complaint filed on Tuesday, Jan. 16, in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City, the government alleges that Magnesium Corporation (MagCorp) is illegally generating, storing and disposing of waste including at least five wastes regarded as hazardous because of their toxicity or corrosivity. The Justice Department brought the lawsuit on behalf of the EPA, asking the court to direct MagCorp to comply with federal and state environmental laws.

The suit also asks the court to impose penalties on MagCorp under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), the federal hazardous waste statute. For example, RCRA requires companies such as MagCorp to meet standards for treating, storing and disposing of wastes; minimize hazardous releases to the environment; establish training programs for employees; and meet dozens of other requirements.

"All companies that manage hazardous waste should be on notice that the federal government will do everything in its power to protect public health and the environment from illegal operations," said Steve Herman, EPA Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. "The people in the surrounding community deserve to live in safe and clean environment."

MagCorp processes magnesium chloride salts taken from water of the Great Salt Lake at its Tooele County, Utah, plant, and this production of magnesium generates several kinds of hazardous waste. The plant discharges thousands of gallons per day of liquids and solid waste into several unlined ditches and into a 400-acre pond, immediately adjacent to the Great Salt Lake.

For many years, MagCorp maintained that its waste was exempt from RCRA requirements because of an exclusion in the law for certain kinds of processes involving minerals. None of the waste addressed in today's lawsuit is covered by this exclusion, according to the lawsuit.

The hazardous waste suit names several defendants in addition to MagCorp: Renco Metals Inc., the Renco Group Inc., Mr. Ira Rennert of New York, N.Y, the Rennert Trusts, Justin W. D'Atri and unidentified trustees.

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