WASHINGTON — The U.S. EPA announced the settlement of charges against Morton International Inc. that alleged the company violated several environmental laws at its Moss Point, MS, facility.

Under a civil settlement and criminal plea agreement, Morton — acquired in June 1999 by Rohm and Haas Co. — will pay a $20 million penalty that the EPA says is the largest civil fine ever levied for environmental violations at a single manufacturing site. Morton produces polysulfide and epoxy systems, polysulfide-based coatings and sealants, rocket polymers, and other chemicals and adhesives at the facility, which was built in 1952.

The civil settlement, filed by the U.S. Justice Department on behalf of the EPA and the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, resolves claims that the company was responsible for “thousands” of violations of regulations established by clean-air, clean-water and hazardous-waste laws. The agreement obligates Morton to perform $16 million worth of projects to enhance the environment; requires a third-party environmental audit of all 23 chemical facilities owned by Rohm and Haas in the United States; and requires that Morton also complete a comprehensive assessment of the Moss Point facility, determine whether corrective measures are needed to address pollution, and undertake any necessary measures.

In a separate action, Morton pleaded guilty to criminal violations of the Clean Water Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). Under a plea agreement, Morton has agreed to pay a $2-million criminal penalty for those violations.

In a formal statement on the settlement, Rohm and Haas President and Chief Operating Officer Mike Fitzpatrick said the company has cooperated with federal and state officials “to resolve certain historic environmental issues associated with the Morton Moss Point facility.” The company said that under the total $38 million settlement agreement, it will implement a series of actions to address environmental controls at the Moss Point site.

Investigators found that Morton was disposing of several kinds of hazardous waste at its on-site landfill without a specific RCRA permit, including waste ash, sludge, toluene, and other wastes. In addition, regulators determined that Morton was disposing of hazardous wastes, including toluene and methyl ethyl ketone, in deep injection wells, violating the facility’s underground injection facilities permit. The company is also alleged to have violated the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act by releasing methanol, methyl ethyl ketone, and toluene into the air and soil. Other allegations included violations of permit regulations under the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act.