CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Federal regulators have agreed to separate settlements that resolve workplace safety and environmental violations at a Hancock County metals recycling plant after three workers died in an explosion and fire three years ago this month.
AL Solutions, which operated the facility at New Cumberland, will pay $100,000 in fines to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and $97,000 to the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
EPA announced both settlements in a Thursday afternoon press release, after the EPA deal, which requires judicial approval, was filed in U.S. District Court in Wheeling.
Federal officials said that AL Solutions also agreed to "implement extensive, company-wide safeguards to prevent future accidental releases of hazardous chemicals form its facilities," at a cost EPA estimated at $7.8 million.
"Modern technology is making it easier to assess potential hazards and prevent disasters before they happen," said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for the EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.
"Facilities that handle extremely hazardous substances should be using these tools to protect their workers and those in surrounding communities," Giles said. "Today's settlement makes this a requirement for AL Solutions, and we hope others take it upon themselves to do the right thing."
AL Solutions officials could not be reached for comment Thursday afternoon.
In its New Cumberland facility, AL Solutions processed titanium and zirconium, using what it called a "proprietary technology" to recycle these metals into "high-quality alloying additions to aluminum."
At about 1:30 p.m. on Dec. 9, 2010, brothers Jeffrey Scott Fish, 39, and James E. Fish, 38, and Steven Swain, 27, were working inside a reinforced concrete building where the recycling process is located. An explosion ripped through the building. The Fish brothers died at the scene, and Swain died later at a Pittsburgh hospital.
After the deaths, OSHA inspectors issued citations for one willful violation, 16 serious violations and one other-than-serious violation -- and fines of $154,000.
Among other things, OSHA inspectors alleged the facility had the wrong type of sprinkler system, was not equipped with a system to limit pressure buildup during the blending and pressing of metals, and included an inadequate gas monitoring system.