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CF Industries to spend $12 million to settle federal complaint of improper waste handling

Published By: Tampa Bay Online

PLANT CITY - CF Industries has agreed to spend about $12 million to improve the way it handles and manages hazardous waste at a large fertilizer plant north of the city, federal officials said today.

The agreement settled complaints by state and federal regulators that alleged problems at the company's phosphoric acid and ammoniated fertilizer manufacturing facility at 10608 Paul Buchman Highway. The settlement requires the company based near Chicago to pay a civil penalty of $701,500 and provide $163.5 million in financial assurances to guarantee appropriate closure and long-term care of the facility, the U.S. Department of Justice said.

The company operates a 400-acre phosphogypsum stack and associated ponds for storing mineral processing wastes. Inspectors from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection discovered that between December 2004 and January 2005 that the company wasn't properly disposing of wastes, according to a statement from the Department of Justice.

The $701,500 civil penalty will be split between the federal government and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

CF spokesman Richard Ghent said the plant had been passing government inspections until he said inspectors changed the way they interpreted regulations, which he said were very complicated. The company didn't necessarily agree to the new way the rules were interpreted, but "we've been working proactively with them to address their concerns."

Ghent said other fertilizer companies have also faced similar regulatory issues.

Stephen R. Wilson, chairman, president and chief executive officer of CF Industries, said in a statement that the company felt it was in its best interest to settle.

"We are pleased to have resolved this issue through a negotiated settlement that reaffirms our commitment to environmental stewardship," Wilson said. "We have always sought to lead the industry in implementing practices that protect our natural resources, such as construction of our industry-first fully lined phosphogypsum stack system at Plant City."

The Plant City factory produces 2.1 million tons of phosphate fertilizer a year.

CF Industries, a subsidiary of CF Industries Holdings, is one of North America's largest manufacturers and distributors of nitrogen and phosphate fertilizer products. The company, founded in 1946, also has amore than 22,000-acre phosphate mine in Hardee County.

The Plant City factory and Wauchula-area mine were recently featured on a Science Channel show about the use of phosphate as a fire retardant.

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