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SPONGE FIRM TO MOVE ON POLLUTION PROBLEM

O-Cel-O has agreed to end its delay in controlling air-pollution problems at its Town of Tonawanda plant.

The company at 305 Sawyer Ave. signed an amended consent order with the state Department of Environmental Conservation that also imposes a $100,000 penalty. O-Cel-O is the nation's largest producer of cellulose sponges.

O-Cel-O, under a consent order since 1986, was required to perform three projects to meet state air-quality emissions standards by December 1987. The company met the deadline for two of the projects -- installing pollution-control equipment for a vacuum operator and installing a modified exhaust system for cooking cells.

But the company did not meet a plan to control carbon disulfide emissions. There were some legitimate reasons for the delay, DEC attorney Jeffrey Lacey said Thursday. Carbon disulfide emissions are not controlled elsewhere in the country to the degree that they are in New York State, he said. As a result, O-Cel-O had problems coming up with a way to control the emissions.

"This is an area where there is no off-the-shelf pollution-control device," he said. "The technology for it didn't exist, so it had to be designed, pilot-tested and built from scratch."

Lacey said the project will cost O-Cel-O more than $4 million.

DEC Commissioner Thomas C. Jorling called part of the delay inexcusable.

O-Cel-O officials also blamed the company's pending sale as a reason for the delay. O-Cel-O, which had been a subsidiary of General Mills, was sold recently to the 3M Co., based in St. Paul, Minn.

The amended consent order gives O-Cel-O until late next fall to install the pollution-control equipment. Failure to meet the new deadline will result in a $1,000-a-day fine, Lacey said.

O-Cel-O spokesman Richard Holzerland declined to comment.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency earlier this year fined the company $157,000 for failing to immediately report the release of toxic chemicals after an Aug. 30, 1989, release.

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