Industrial facilities in the United States are subject to complex, overlapping environmental regulations concerning air emissions, discharges to water, hazardous waste management and disposal, oil spills, chemical management, and more. Failure to comply with all applicable US EPA requirements can result in future liability and civil penalties as high as $100,000+ per day, per violation (and growing every year).
The EPA enforcement actions highlighted below provide insight into how and why the Agency assesses civil penalties for environmental noncompliance. All violations mentioned are alleged unless we indicate otherwise.
We withhold the names of organizations and individuals subject to enforcement to protect their privacy.
WHO: A railcar servicer
WHERE: Omaha, NE
WHAT: RCRA violations
HOW MUCH: $21,000
On April 14, 2015, workers were inside and on top of a rail tanker car, removing petroleum residue from inside the tank, when flammable gases in the tanker car ignited and exploded. Two workers died
and another was injured in the blast. According to court documents, the company failed to test for benzene and explosive gas levels prior to sending two employees to the car. A third employee pulled bucket loads of waste up through the top hatch and dumped them into a regular dumpster to be taken to a municipal landfill, even though the residue was hazardous waste.
The railcar cleaner allegedly failed to implement worker safety standards, mishandled hazardous wastes violating the RCRA, and knowingly submitted false documents to OSHA during inspections. The company will serve five years of probation and will pay a $21,000 fine for the environmental and worker safety violations.
WHO: A regional power company
WHERE: Greensburg, PA
WHAT: Clean Water Act violations
HOW MUCH: $610,000
A Pennsylvania power company agreed to pay a civil penalty to resolve alleged water discharge violations at two coal ash impoundment landfills.
According to the settlement, the company exceeded boron limits in discharges from the Mingo Landfill in Union Township and Springdale Landfill in Frazer Township.
The company will take steps to ensure continued compliance by constructing new gravity pipelines to new outfall locations in Peters Creek and Allegheny River and collect data on instream boron levels in Peters Creek.
WHO: A scrap metal recycling facility
WHERE: Houston, TX
WHAT: Clean Air Act violations
HOW MUCH: $442,500
EPA filed a consent decree alleging that a recycling facility failed to recover refrigerant from appliances and motor vehicle air conditioners before disposal or verify with the supplier that the refrigerant had been properly recovered prior to delivery. Under the settlement, the company will prevent the release of refrigerants and non-exempt substitutes during item processing and disposal.
The company must also implement a Refrigerant Recovery Management Program at its 10 facilities, reject any appliance or vehicle where there is evidence of unlawful refrigerant venting, and complete an environmental mitigation project. The project involves the destruction of all R-12 refrigerant
collected at company facilities.
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