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 chemical manufacturer
WHERE: Six locations in TX and IA
WHAT: Clean Air Act violations
HOW MUCH: $3.4 million
An international chemical manufacturer agreed to implement $50 million in upgrades and compliance measures at five company facilities in Texas and one in Iowa. The upgrades are expected to eliminate thousands of tons of air pollution and help bring the facilities into compliance with Federal and State air pollution control regulations.
According to EPA, the facilities failed to properly operate and monitor industrial flares, which resulted in excess emissions of harmful air pollution. The company also allegedly failed to comply with other key operating constraints to ensure the volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
and hazardous air pollutants contained in the gases routed to the flares are effectively combusted.
WHO: A specialty pest services firm
WHERE: Tacoma, WA
WHAT: RCRA and FIFRA violations
HOW MUCH: $214,407
In March 2019, a local fire department responded to a fire at a chemical facility related to alleged mismanagement of 177.5 pounds of partially spent pesticide
. According to EPA, the pesticide reacted with water in the air to produce hydrogen phosphide gas, or phosphine, which spontaneously ignited. As a result, one person working nearby was taken to the hospital due to phosphine poisoning.
The company has since closed the facility where the incident occurred and agreed to pay $180,000 for RCRA violations and $34,407 to resolve FIFRA violations. RCRA violations include receiving dangerous waste from off-site generators without a permit and storing and/or treating dangerous waste without a permit. The company allegedly violated FIFRA by disregarding the requirements of the pesticide’s label.
WHO: A hazardous waste treatment facility
WHERE: San Jose, CA
WHAT: RCRA violations
HOW MUCH: $25,000
EPA reached a settlement with a hazardous waste facility for improper management of hazardous waste. EPA conducted an inspection in 2019 and found that the facility violated its State hazardous waste permit
by allegedly failing to replace metal tags on equipment used to transfer hazardous waste. These tags are required to help identify equipment regulated under RCRA provisions.
In addition, the company allegedly failed to separate containers of incompatible hazardous waste during storage, which can lead to employee injuries or a release to the environment through fire or explosion.
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