A Lake Forest-based paper mill company has agreed to pay $2.5 million to settle a lawsuit brought by the Department of Justice following an explosion that killed three workers and injured others in Louisiana.
The Packaging Corporation of America agreed to pay the settlement to resolve allegations that it violated the Clean Air Act’s General Duty Clause and Risk Management Program Regulations.
The U.S. Department of Justice and the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality said the company committed numerous Clean Air Act violations that stem partly from a fatal explosion at the company’s DeRidder, Louisiana Pulp and Paper Mill on February 8, 2017.
The explosion killed three workers and injured seven others.
The explosion launched a 100,000-gallon storage tank into the air and over a six-story building before it landed on mill equipment approximately 400 feet away.
The blast also caused property damage and released “extremely hazardous” substances into the environment, the EPA said.
The EPA inspected the DeRidder mill after the explosion and uncovered additional Clean Air Act violations.
“This case demonstrates the tragic impacts to human life and the environment that can result from failures to follow appropriate chemical accident prevention and preparation requirements,” said Larry Starfield, Acting Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.
A report from the U.S. Chemical Safety Board said the three contractors killed in the blast were conducting hot work activities near a tank that contained a flammable atmosphere and ultimately exploded.
The DOJ and Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality filed a complaint in federal court against Packaging Corporation America on Wednesday.
The complaint was filed alongside a proposed settlement for court review.
“This settlement both holds the Packaging Corporation of America accountable for failures that contributed to this accident and sends a clear message to corporations across the country on the importance of implementing appropriate chemical safety measures,” Starfield said.
“PCA failed to comply with the General Duty Clause and Risk Management Program Regulations of the Clean Air Act at its DeRidder mill, resulting in the senseless deaths of three workers, while placing other workers and the surrounding community in danger,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environmental and Natural Resources Division.
“This settlement furthers the department’s efforts to ensure corporate compliance with potentially life-saving environmental mandates to protect the air quality and the community in DeRidder and throughout the United States,” Kim said.