Domino sugar plant settles pollution lawsuit

The owner of the Domino sugar refinery in the Inner Harbor has agreed to pay a $200,000 civil penalty and install pollution controls to settle a federal lawsuit accusing the plant of violating the Clean Air Act.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Baltimore on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency, alleged that the refinery at 1100 Key Highway ran its five boilers in a way that exceeded its air pollution permit limits.

Under a consent decree filed Thursday, American Sugar Refining Inc. denied the allegations but agreed to put pollution controls on all five of its boilers over the next year. It also agreed to install emission monitors and to limit the refinery's release of nitrogen oxides to no more than 6 tons in any month and no more than 62 tons a year.

Nitrogen oxides from vehicle exhaust, power plants and industries blend with other pollutants to form ozone, or smog, in the Baltimore area's air. Ozone reaches unhealthful levels in the region's air multiple times every spring and summer, and Maryland is under orders from the EPA to reduce those ozone levels. Nitrogen oxides also add to the Chesapeake Bay's nutrient pollution woes when they fall out of the air.

The EPA issued the company a notice of violation in 2009 over its refinery operations, according to the suit, which was filed the day before the consent decree.

A statement issued by the New York-based company said it believed its refinery operations were in compliance but agreed to settle "to avoid costly litigation."

"Our refinery has been a steady part of Baltimore's economy for 90 years," said Stuart J. FitzGibbon, the refinery manager, in a statement. "All of our employees here take our environmental responsibilities extremely seriously. The company's willingness to install additional control technology above and beyond what we believe is currently required demonstrates American Sugar's commitment to maintaining and improving air quality in the Baltimore area."

A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment beyond what was contained in the legal documents.