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 waste incineration facility
WHERE: Cottage Grove, MN
WHAT: RCRA violations
HOW MUCH: $2.8 million
An investigation by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency concluded that employees at a now-closed incinerator improperly labeled and handled hazardous waste on numerous occasions since 1996. The Agency also claims that the incinerator failed to monitor levels of hazardous materials
, such as mercury, lead, and nickel in certain waste streams between 2014 and 2020.
The facility made two dozen corrections to resolve the alleged violations and achieve compliance with its hazardous waste permit. In August 2021, the company announced plans to shut down the incinerator and shift operations to another facility in Massachusetts.
WHO: A power station
WHERE: Pueblo, CO
WHAT: RCRA violations
HOW MUCH: $925,000
EPA reached an agreement with a power hub in Colorado to resolve alleged groundwater contamination issues and ensure the proper closure of Coal Combustion Residuals (CCR)
surface impoundments. Produced primarily from the burning of coal, CCR is a large industrial waste stream that can contain harmful levels of contaminants such as mercury, cadmium, and arsenic. Without proper management, contaminants from CCR can pollute waterways, groundwater, drinking water, and the air.
According to the agreement, the company failed to monitor groundwater under the facility, conduct statistical analysis of groundwater data, and establish groundwater background contaminant concentrations. The company has agreed to design a groundwater monitoring system that meets CCR program requirements and implement a corrective measures plan.
WHO: A construction equipment company
WHERE: Lancaster, MA
WHAT: Clean Water Act violations
HOW MUCH: $18,000
According to EPA, a New England construction company allegedly failed to obtain permit coverage
at a construction site in Lancaster, MA. Due to a lack of erosion controls at the site, sediment runoff from this site impacted nearby wetlands. Dirt, sediment, and other pollutants carried off construction sites can damage aquatic habitat, contribute to algal blooms, and physically clog streams and pipes.
The company has since agreed to pay the civil penalty and adhere to the terms of its permit for discharging stormwater. All construction sites one acre or larger with the potential to discharge stormwater to surface waters are required to obtain coverage under EPA's General Permit for Discharges from Construction Activities, comply with the terms of the permit, and thereby minimize sediment discharges.
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