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Croda to pay penalty, modify plant under settlement with state

Tom Byrne/Delaware Public Media

The state has settled recent violations with a controversial chemical company in the New Castle area.



Croda’s Atlas Point facility along the Route 9 Corridor was the site of a massive leak of the explosive and carcinogenic gas ethylene oxide in 2018. 

Two years later, state environmental regulators detected more permit violations at the facility—including excess emissions of ethylene oxide. The ethylene oxide plant shut down last fall, then restarted for testing last month. The testing proved compliance for ethylene oxide emissions, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) says, but revealed violations for other pollutants: nitrogen oxide (NOx), carbon monoxide (CO), volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and particulate matter (PM).

Croda settled with the state Friday, and agreed to make physical changes at the plant. The company will also expand its alarm system north of I-295 by the end of the year, to reach the neighborhood of Holloway Terrace. The company must spend at least $100,000 on the alarm project, and cannot use any state, federal or local grants. Croda will also pay a $300,000 penalty. 

Croda, which has operations on several continents, made $1.7 billion in sales and returned more than $370 million to shareholders in 2019.

Local residents and environmental justice advocates have called for better emergency notifications around the Atlas Point facility and community-controlled air monitoring since the 2018 leak. 

Croda is currently the subject of an attempted class-action lawsuit by a New Castle County resident who claims she and others are subject to increased risk of illness as a result of exposure to ethylene oxide over decades.

According to 2014 EPA data, residents in census tracts around the facility do bear an additional cancer risk because of the chemical. 

DNREC says Croda plans to restart its ethylene oxide plant “no sooner” than the end of next week. A virtual public information session is scheduled for March 3.


Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.
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