EPA Settles Hazardous Waste Lawsuit Which Began in 2001 Against Magnesium Company

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) filed a consent decree on Tuesday announcing a settlement between it and U.S. Magnesium (USM), “the largest producer of magnesium metal in the Northern Hemisphere,” in the Utah District Court. The magnesium company was accused of illegally disposing of hazardous waste at its facility in Rowley, Utah, and contaminating the Great Salt Lake and its ecosystem, which neighbors USM’s operations.  

The settlement between the parties requires USM to build a barrier wall around 1,700 acres of its facility, build a filtration plant to treat the wastewater and remove dioxins, furans, hexachlorobenzene and PCBs, enact protocols to protect workers, and set aside funds for cleanup when the facility is eventually closed. These steps will cost the company about $37 million, and are in addition to the $250,000 penalty agreed to in the settlement. 

Acting EPA Regional Administrator Debra Thomas said in an EPA press release, “EPA, DOJ, and the State of Utah have worked with the facility to address environmental impacts through litigation, EPA cleanup authorities, state permitting activities, and, ultimately, this mutually agreed upon settlement for the long-term management of hazardous waste.”

The lawsuit, which was initially filed in 2001, included claims against USM, the Renco Group, In.c, the Ira Leon Rennert Revocable Trusts, and Mr. Ira Leon Rennert. The notice said the agreement would resolve the claims against each of the defendants, as well as claims filed by United Steelworkers of America (USW), which intervened in 2004. The lawsuit was closed in 2014 administratively after a break in filing and reopened in 2016 after the United States filed a Status Report, however, nothing else was filed in the lawsuit until this week’s consent decree notice. 

“This settlement advances EPA’s mission of achieving  environmentally beneficial management of hazardous waste by reducing the volume and toxicity of waste generated on site and ensuring that the U.S. taxpayer will not be responsible for future costs associated with cleanup and closure of this facility,” said Susan Bodine, EPA’s Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.

The settlement is still subject to a public comment period and approval by the court. The EPA is represented by the Department of Justice, USM is represented by Parsons Behle & Latimer, other defendants are represented by Sidley & Austin, and USW is represented by Santarella & Eckert, LLC.