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10:46 AM Sun, Sept. 23rd

ADEQ fines Pure Wafer $120,000 for not having air quality permit

The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) reported Friday that Pure Wafer Inc. has agreed to pay $120,000 in civil penalties for not having an air quality permit at its Prescott facility.

According to an ADEQ news release, officials with the state department observed an emission from an onsite stack during an inspection at the Pure Wafer facility. The emission was determined to be hydrogen fluoride.

"The inspection also revealed that the facility did not have an air quality permit," the news release stated. "Pure Wafer acquired the facility but did not obtain a permit before or after the purchase."

Since the inspection, Pure Wafer has applied for a permit, which was issued on Jan. 2, 2013, the news release stated. In addition to identifying air pollution emissions limitations, the permit contains the necessary monitoring, record keeping and reporting requirements for the facility.

"Permits are important to ensure that air pollution equipment is installed and functioning properly," ADEQ Director Henry Darwin said. "Pure Wafer worked quickly and cooperatively with us to obtain a permit after receiving the notice of violation."

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency lists hydrogen fluoride as a hazardous air pollutant, the news release stated, adding, "Acute inhalation exposure can cause severe respiratory damage and pulmonary edema."

Pure Wafer, whose headquarters are in the United Kingdom, prepares reclaimed silicon test wafers for the semiconductor industry.

The ADEQ release added that the consent judgment is subject to court approval.

In another recent matter concerning Pure Wafer, the Prescott City Council approved an ADEQ consent order this past May that required the city to deal with high levels of fluoride in its treated sewage. The city attributed the fluoride problem to discharges from Pure Wafer, which uses hydrofluoric acid to scrub the wafers for recycling.

The consent order gave the city a year to rectify the fluoride exceedances and implement wastewater pretreatment activities.

At that time, city officials said they were discussing a possible solution with Pure Wafer (formerly Exsil, Inc.), and a company official said there were "interpretation differences" over the requirements of a 1997 development agreement between the city and company.

Next week, the Prescott City Council will discuss the matter during a Tuesday closed-door executive session. The meeting agenda states that the council would receive legal advice regarding the Exsil/Pure Wafer development agreement.