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New Mexico Accuses Helena Chemical Of 11 Violations

State environment agency has issued a compliance order to a Mesquite chemical company, alleging 11 violations of Helena Chemical Co.'s air quality permit and fining it $279,076.

MESQUITE, N.M. (AP) -- State Environment Secretary Ron Curry has issued a compliance order to a Mesquite chemical company, alleging 11 violations of Helena Chemical Co.'s air quality permit and fining it $279,076.

A representative of Helena Chemical, Ed Brister, said the company is reviewing the order and will respond within the time frame allowed by law. The company, which has headquarters in Collierville, Tenn., can request a settlement hearing from the Environment Department.

The order, based on a notice of violation issued in November to the fertilizer company, alleges such violations as allowing emissions to escape from the plant, neglecting to do testing and monitoring to make sure air quality standards are met and failing to maintain records.

The state agency said seven inspections conducted by its Air Quality Bureau between March and June 2007 found 11 violations of the Air Quality Control Act or regulations and the company's state air permit.

Curry said Helena Chemical initially violated state law by failing to obtain an air quality permit before starting the Mesquite operations. It received the permit in November 2005.

"Once the company obtained the permit, it still failed to understand the gravity of complying with that permit and laws governing air quality," he said.

The Environment Department issued a notice of violation and assessed a penalty of $238,000 on Helena in November 2004 for its failure to obtain a permit to operate the facility. The department also issued a $36,000 penalty to Helena in October 2006 after the company did not report a chemical fertilizer spill.

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