SALT LAKE CITY (AP) _ The Magnesium Corp. of America, ranked the most polluting manufacturer in the country year after year, was sued Tuesday by the Department of Justice for allegedly mishandling hazardous waste.
The government says that MagCorp is illegally generating, storing and disposing of toxic or corrosive wastes at its magnesium plant on the western shore of the Great Salt Lake. The Justice Department sued in federal court in Salt Lake City on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency.
The lawsuit says MagCorp, which processes magnesium chloride from the lake's salty water, discharges thousands of gallons of waste each day into several unlined ditches and a 400-acre pond next to the lake. That violates the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, according to the EPA.
MagCorp has claimed for years that its wastes are exempt from the act under an exception for some mineral processes. But the government's lawsuit says certain wastes are not covered by that exemption.
"We've had a difference of interpretation that's been going on for a long time," said Tom Tripp, technical services manager for MagCorp. "It's a long-standing dispute that's finally coming to a head."
The suit also names MagCorp's parent company, Renco Metals Inc., and related companies and individuals.
In a separate lawsuit, the government has also asked to add Renco and others to its 1998 lawsuit that claims the company trespassed on federal lands when it took magnesium and other minerals from brines on and under Utah's west desert. The government argued MagCorp may not have the finances to cover any damages on its own.
Tripp would not comment on that lawsuit.
MagCorp, the world's third-largest producer of magnesium, has topped the EPA's list of polluting plants for years. In 1998, it released 57 million pounds of toxic air pollution, mostly chlorine gas and hydrochloric acid.
(Copyright 2001 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)