EPA Enforcement Roundup: Week of 12/13

Posted on 12/13/2021 by Lauren Scott

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 fishing company
WHERE: Pago Pago, AS
WHAT: Clean Water Act violations
HOW MUCH: $725,000

A San Francisco-based fishing company, its manager, and a commercial fishing vessel engineer collectively agreed to pay $725,000 in civil penalties to resolve alleged violations of oil pollution regulations. According to the US Department of Justice, the fishing vessel improperly discharged oily mixtures from its engine room bilge into Pago Pago Harbor while performing vessel repairs on April 20, 2018.

As part of the settlement, the company agreed to hire an independent maritime consultant to conduct a top-to-bottom review of all company vessels’ oil handling practices and operations and provide crew members with training on proper operation of the oily water separator system and on the required recordkeeping for the system.

WHO: A water systems disinfectant manufacturer
WHERE: Torrance, CA
WHAT: Clean Air Act violations
HOW MUCH: $200,000

EPA announced a settlement with a California chemical company over its alleged shortcomings in chemical accident prevention protocols. In 2015 and 2017, EPA conducted inspections at a company facility that supplies and manufactures chemicals to disinfect water systems. The facility allegedly failed to translate operating procedures for its Spanish-speaking employees and adequately address in its hazard analysis the previous derailment of a railcar carrying sulfur dioxide, among other violations.

In addition to paying the penalty, the facility agreed to follow a schedule for translating its operating procedures, to adopt a computerized maintenance management system, and to implement an accelerated schedule for emergency response exercises.

WHO: A vineyard
WHERE: Bakersfield, CA
WHAT: Clean Air Act and EPCRA violations
HOW MUCH: $188,882

On September 12, 2019, EPA conducted an inspection of a grape packing and storage facility in Bakersfield, California. EPA identified significant violations of chemical safety and emergency requirements, including insufficient emergency response training for employees if an accidental release of anhydrous ammonia were to occur, failure to promptly address critical safety recommendations, and inadequate documentation of anhydrous ammonia release prevention procedures.

The vineyard agreed to implement many safety upgrades in response to the settlement, such as improvements to a machinery room emergency ventilation system, installation of a safety shower and eye wash station and pressure relief valves, repair of damaged refrigeration equipment, and the addition of safety signage and labeling.

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Tags: anhydrous ammonia, chemical accident prevention, Chemical safety, Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, EPA, fines, penalties

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