Company with aluminum processing facility in The Dalles pleads guilty to violating Clean Air Act

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Published: Jan. 25, 2023 at 11:10 AM PST
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PORTLAND, Ore. (KPTV) - An Illinois-based company operating an aluminum processing facility in The Dalles pleaded guilty to violating the Clean Air Act Tuesday, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Hydro Extrusion USA pleaded guilty to negligent endangerment by releasing a hazardous pollutant, endangering its employees and community members in the area.

According to court documents, Hydro’s processing facility in The Dalles melts aluminum scrap using a furnace to produce reusable aluminum billets. The emissions from the furnaces were opened into the building where employees breathed the air. The hazardous fumes did not pass through a filtration device before reaching the employees or being released into the environment.

Under the Clean Air Act, facilities like these are only allowed to use aluminum scraps that are free of paints, coatings, or lubricants. Hydro-melted scraps coated with a mineral-oil-based mixture that, when burned, produces hazardous smoke. Buying coated aluminum saved Hydro about $466,000 between July 2018 and June 2019. The company continued burning the coated aluminum even after being notified by the EPA and the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.

“No cost savings or competitive advantage are worth the risk posed to the health and safety of Hydro’s workers or members of the community,” said Ethan Knight, Chief of the Economic Crimes Unit for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Hydro was charged with negligent endangerment in August 2022, and pleaded guilty on Tuesday, agreeing to pay a fine of $550,000. It now faces a fine of up to $200,000 or twice the gross gains or losses caused by the offense. The company is set to be sentenced on April 24.