EPA Enforcement Roundup: Week of 8/29

Posted on 8/26/2022 by Roger Marks

US businesses 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: An electroplating company
WHERE: Grand Rapids, MI area
WHAT: Criminal Clean Water Act violations
HOW MUCH: $4.2 million and max. 3 years incarceration  

Under the terms of a plea agreement reached in Michigan, the president and VP of an electroplating company will plead guilty to criminal violations of the Clean Water Act for discharging zinc in excess of permitted limits. Restitution of about $4.2 million has been agreed upon, according to the court document.

The plea agreement states that the site “routinely discharged zinc in excess of the daily and monthly permitted limitations,” at times bypassing the pretreatment system entirely in violation of Federal regulations. One 90-minute composite sample collected by EPA contained 310 mg/L of zinc, more than 100 times the permitted daily limit. The president of the company could face a sentence of up to three years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

WHO: A seller of disinfectants 
WHERE: San Diego, CA area

WHAT: FIFRA and hazardous materials violations
HOW MUCH: 8 months in custody and $500,000+

A California man who pleaded guilty to unlawfully selling and shipping an unregistered pesticide product was sentenced to eight months in custody on August 15. The defendant’s firm claimed that its product, a badge that could be worn on clothing, would protect customers from infectious diseases by releasing chlorine dioxide gas when activated.

The product was shipped via USPS, despite the fact that it contained sodium chlorite and chlorine dioxide (nonhydrate)—both Hazard Class 5.1 materials, which are prohibited in the mail system by USPS standards.

At least 300 shipments occurred after the defendant was informed of the prohibition. In addition to eight months in custody, the defendant and his firm must forfeit more than $400,000 in proceeds and pay restitution and fines totaling nearly $130,000.

WHO: Four ethanol manufacturing facilities
WHERE: Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, & Ohio
WHAT: EPCRA TRI reporting violations
HOW MUCH: $1.7 million

For an alleged 131 violations of the EPCRA Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) reporting requirements at four midwest ethanol manufacturing facilities, a major agribusiness interest will pay $1.7 million in civil penalties under Consent Orders with US EPA Regions 5 and 7. 

The company allegedly failed to report on its manufacture, processing, and/or use of chemicals above regulatory thresholds—including acrolein, acetaldehyde, methanol, benzene, ethylbenzene, n-Hexane, and toluene—from 2015 until 2020.  

Facilities in certain industry groups are required to submit TRI reporting (also called SARA 313 or Form R reports) by July 1 each year if their activities involve large volumes of chemicals covered by the program. Generally, covered facilities must report if they manufacture, import, or process more than 25,000 pounds of a listed chemical during the previous year; or “otherwise use” more than 10,000 pounds of a listed chemical.

EPA Enforcement Roundup: Week of 8/29

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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.

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Tags: Clean Water Act, environmental compliance, EPA Enforcement Roundup, EPCRA, hazardous materials

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