Every day, facilities across the US receive Notices of Violation from US EPA for alleged noncompliance with a wide variety of programs like the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts; chemical management and reporting regulations (TSCA, EPCRA, CERCLA, etc.); hazardous waste management and disposal standards (RCRA); and much more.
Below are examples of recent EPA enforcement actions that provide insight into how and why EPA issues civil penalties to facilities for environmental noncompliance. Names of companies and individuals cited by EPA are withheld to protect their privacy.
WHO: An icecream processing facility
WHERE: Bakersfield, CA
WHAT: Clean Air Act violations
HOW MUCH: $301,066
An ice cream facility located in Bakersfield, California allegedly failed to comply with chemical release prevention requirements related to its use of anhydrous ammonia.
According to EPA, the company failed to process safety and hazard evaluation requirements, correct deficient equipment, manage change requirements, comply with compliance audit requirements, and submit accurate hazardous chemical reports for anhydrous ammonia.
The facility’s response was to improve process safety by adding machinery room signage, panic hardware, and an eyewash and safety shower; moving machinery room ammonia sensors; adding labeling; improving machinery room emergency ventilation; correcting deficient equipment; and addressing outstanding recommendations from hazard evaluations and compliance audits.
WHO: Landfill gas-to-energy company
WHERE: Arbor Hills, MI
WHAT: Clean Air Act violations
HOW MUCH: $750,000
In a complaint filed simultaneously with the consent decree, the United States and the state of Michigan alleged the company violated several CAA and Michigan State laws by exceeding sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions limits.
This pollutant is detrimental to human health and the environment when emitted into the air. Exposure can cause premature death, heart attacks, respiratory problems, and adverse environmental effects.
To bring the facility into compliance and mitigate past excess emissions, the settlement requires the company to do either of the following by March 2023: Construct a renewable natural gas facility to convert landfill gas (LFG) into pipeline quality natural gas (which would eliminate SO2
emissions), or install a sulfur treatment system that achieves a 64% reduction in SO2
WHO: A steel manufacturer
WHERE: Portage, ID
WHAT: Clean Water Act violations
HOW MUCH: $601,242
The EPA and state of Indiana approved a revised consent decree requiring the company to initiate substantial measures to improve wastewater treatment and monitoring systems at its manufacturing and finishing facility. The decree is in response to a wastewater spill in April 2017. The wastewater contained pollutants, including hexavalent chromium
, that entered a waterway that flows into Lake Michigan.
The company must improve its public and stakeholder notification procedures in the event of a spill or release. The decree’s requirements are enforceable under the CWA, Superfund, and Emergency Planning and Right-to-Know Act. In addition to the civil penalty, the company must reimburse $350,653 to the EPA and $12,564 to the National Park Service for response costs incurred.
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