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: A waste-to-energy facility
WHERE: Dakota City, NE
WHAT: Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act violations
HOW MUCH: $1.1 million
According to EPA, an energy plant released hazardous amounts of biomass and biogas on at least 16 occasions between 2017 and 2019. One malfunction in 2018 accidentally released 80,000 gallons of biomass
overflowing from the digesters. Specific alleged violations include failure to control accidental releases of extremely hazardous substances, failure to comply with air and water permits, and unauthorized discharges into local water bodies.
The state of Nebraska revoked the facility’s Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act permits in 2019. Later in 2019, the facility stopped accepting waste and has since ceased operations.
WHO: A steel forge
WHERE: Chicago, IL
WHAT: EPCRA violations
HOW MUCH: $165,197
EPA recently announced a settlement with a steel manufacturer to resolve alleged violations of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA). EPA alleged that the facility violated EPCRA by failing to submit required forms regarding the releases and transfers of substances including chromium, nickel, ethylene glycol, and manganese.
Under the terms of the consent agreement and final order with EPA, the company has addressed the alleged EPCRA violations at the facility and will pay a civil penalty of $165,197 to the Federal government.
WHO: A glass bottle manufacturer
WHERE: Portland, OR
WHAT: EPCRA violations
HOW MUCH: $38,900
A company that makes glass bottles violated EPCRA’s Toxic Release Inventory provisions when it allegedly failed to report information about toxic chromium compounds at its Portland facility. The plant uses iron chromite to make green glass.
When super-heated in a furnace, iron chromite produces new chromium compounds, which are then incorporated into green glass bottles.
EPA found that in 2017 and 2018, the company failed to file required reports indicating it manufactured and processed chromium compounds in quantities that exceeded the threshold reporting amounts of 25,000 pounds.
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