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 metal finishing facility
WHERE: Springfield, MA
WHAT: RCRA violations
HOW MUCH: $10,700
A metal finishing facility allegedly accumulated hazardous waste on site for more than 180 days, exceeding the storage time limit for a small quantity generator, or SQG.
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) also determined the company failed to maintain records of waste analysis and test results.
Under the RCRA hazardous waste regulations, a small quantity generator is a facility that generates less than 1,000 kg of hazardous waste per calendar month. SQGs may store hazardous waste on site for up to 180 days before it must be transported off site. Facilities that generate more than 1,000 kg per month, called large
quantity generators, are subject to more stringent requirements for contingency planning, training of personnel, environmental reporting, and more.
What’s My Generator Status?
The company has agreed to pay $4,000 of its $10,700 civil penalty. The remaining balance will be suspended once the facility develops an Environmental Management System for daily operations and conducts training for its workforce.
WHO: A regional water supplier
WHERE: Imperial, CA
WHAT: Clean Water Act violations
HOW MUCH: $299,857
A California water supplier recently reached a settlement with EPA over alleged Clean Water Act violations related improper sediment discharge
into local wetlands. Following a November 5, 2020, inspection, EPA found that the organization’s drain bank construction had contributed to the sediment discharge on roughly 1 acre of wetlands. The discharge also affected approximately 20 acres of wetlands by severing the connection with Morton Bay and the Salton Sea.
In addition to paying a penalty, the organization will develop a plan for the removal of the discharged sediment and the restoration of the water connection to Morton Bay. If the water supplier is unable to restore the impacted site, it would need to reestablish 63 acres of wetlands at an alternative location.
WHO: A fuel company
WHERE: Clackamas, OR
WHAT: Clean Water Act violations
HOW MUCH: $207,000
EPA has issued a six-figure civil penalty to an energy company due to Clean Water Act violations related to an accident involving an overturned tanker.
On February 16, 2020, a company-owned tanker truck carrying gasoline and diesel rolled over on Oregon Highway 22 and released an estimated 7,800 gallons of oil onto the highway and the surrounding area adjacent to the North Santiam River. Water quality sampling in the area indicated elevated levels of petroleum in the river from February 17 through March 11, 2020.
The North Santiam River provides drinking water to the City of Salem and its surrounding communities. The spill threatened, but ultimately did not affect, drinking water. The river is home to Federally endangered and threatened steelhead trout and salmon. The company has since agreed to pay a $135,000 penalty to EPA and a $72,000 penalty to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.
Convenient, Effective Online EHS Manager Training
Managing site compliance with the many complex EPA programs that affect your business—from the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts to TSCA, EPCRA, CERCLA, and more—is a major challenge. If you’re new to the field or need an update on changing EPA rules, online training is a convenient way to quickly build in-depth expertise.
Check out the latest EPA compliance training options here:
Complete Environmental Regulations
Clean Air Act Regulations Online
TSCA Regulations Online
Clean Water Act & SDWA Regulations Online
Superfund and Right-to-Know Act Regulations Online