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DuPont pays city 'donation' after year-long dispute over its wastewater

By Stephen Betts | Jun 01, 2020
Photo by: Stephen Betts The DuPont plant in Rockland.

Rockland — DuPont Nutrition USA, Inc. "donated" $5,500 to the city in November to settle an allegation that it was significantly out of compliance with its license to discharge wastewater.

The resolution of the alleged violation took a year to reach, according to documents provided by the city at the newspaper's request.

Wastewater Department Director Terry Pinto discussed the challenge of processing wastes from the carrageenan-producing plant during the May 27 meeting of the Rockland City Council.

DuPont is by far the largest user of the treatment plant, using 60 percent of the capacity of the plant and paying 60 percent of the revenues used to operate the wastewater plant, which has a budget of slightly more than $4 million. DuPont is located on the waterfront across Lermond's Cove from the wastewater plant.

"Our treatment plant is unique because of DuPont," Pinto told councilors. "DuPont is the only type of plant in the country (producing carrageenan). The type of material they produce is totally opposite of what a treatment plant is supposed to do."

The material produced by DuPont keeps particles in suspension while the goal of a wastewater treatment plant is to take particles out of suspension, Pinto said.

"There's constant war going on," he said about the materials sent and the process at the treatment plant.

The November 2019 resolution between the city and DuPont settled issues related to a five-day stretch dating back to the end of August and early September 2018.

There are a series of letters between the city and DuPont starting in November 2018 when the city contended that there had been issues with the material being sent to the treatment plant, which disrupted the treatment process at the Rockland facility. The city also maintained DuPont was not providing timely notice of the problems.

The city maintained that the material discharged interfered with the treatment plant being able to remove solids from the wastewater, which is then discharged into Rockland Harbor.

The city sent a bill to DuPont in November 2018 for $3,725 to cover overtime costs for staff as well as assistance from Interstate Septic. DuPont responded 10 days later that it did not believe it caused the problems at the treatment plant and declined to pay.

The city persisted and DuPont filed an appeal with the Rockland Zoning Board of Appeals.

In the end, an agreement was reached and a written resolution was signed by representatives from the city and DuPont. The matter was never heard by the Zoning Board.

As part of the resolution, Rockland agreed to re-classify the "notice of significant non-compliance" to simply a "warning of possible interference."

DuPont agreed to make a voluntary donation of $5,500 to the wastewater department to help the city study the interaction between the materials used by the city and DuPont. The study would provide recommendations to ensure DuPont's product is compatible with the city treatment plant.

DuPont did not admit any violation as part of the agreement.

Pinto said May 30 there have been no recent issues with DuPont. The company pre-treats its wasterwater before sending it to the Rockland wastewater facility. Pinto said the company pays based on the amount of flow and waste strength. The rate structure is designed to recover all costs, he said.

The DuPont plant produces carrageenan, a food additive that is used for thickening, gelling and stabilizing products such as ice cream, salad dressing, and toothpaste.

DuPont employs about 110 workers in its Rockland plant and is the largest property taxpayer for the city. The company has a total assessment of $34.7 million but $15.3 million of that assessment is not taxed because of the state's business equipment tax exemption program. DuPont paid $479,000 last year in property taxes to the city.

DowDuPont purchased the Rockland plant in November 2017 from FMC Corporation.

DuPont and International Flavors and Fragrances announced Dec. 15 that the two companies reached an agreement to the merger of IFF and DuPont's Nutrition and Biosciences business. The merger is expected to be completed during the first three months of 2021.

In May, the two companies announced the new company would have four divisions including a "taste, food, and beverage" division which had net sales in 2019 of $6.1 billion.

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Comments (1)
Posted by: Stephen K Carroll | Jun 02, 2020 08:12

$5,500 that would be about the amount the Dupont CEO would spend on lunch in any given month.  Quite a slap on the wrist for this multi-billion dollar international conglomerate.  This problem with the incompatability of Duponts waste coming into the treatment plant has only been going on for at least 30 years now.  I remember back then doing an interview with then treatment facility manager McDonald about this very issue.  Rockland has been covering up this issue all this time only because Dupont is a big taxpayer and the City does not want to offend them.  What needs to happen is for the City to inform this company is that they need to construct a pretreatment facility or run the risk of being prohibited from dumping on us.  This of course will NEVER happen because City management has NO teeth and would not run the risk of losing it's biggest customer.   Meanwhile, the rich get richer and the poor, poorer.

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