EPA Enforcement Roundup: Week of 2/14

Posted on 2/14/2022 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 pesticides distributor
WHERE: St. Joseph, MO
WHAT: RCRA violations
HOW MUCH: Employer assets frozen, including company facility

A judge has ordered a receiver to take control of an employer’s assets following alleged repeated failures to comply with a 2011 settlement. The order temporarily freezes the employer’s assets and enables the receiver to access and take control of the employer’s buildings, assets, and limited operations for a period of 60 days.

Since at least 2007, EPA and State inspectors repeatedly found rusted and/or leaking containers containing hazardous waste at a pesticide facility and observed that several buildings were partially collapsed or in danger of collapse. Following the 2011 settlement, EPA found that there was only “sporadic progress” made to comply, even though the facility allegedly continued to accumulate hazardous waste.

WHO: A paper mill
WHERE: Catawba, SC
WHAT: Clean Air Act violations
HOW MUCH: $1.1 million

EPA recently extended the comment period on a proposed consent decree to address elevated hydrogen sulfide (H₂S) emissions from a paper mill. The proposed consent decree follows an emergency order issued by EPA last year to prevent imminent and substantial endangerment to surrounding communities.

Under the terms of the new agreement, the paper mill agreed to operate its steam stripper unit to control hazardous air emissions, monitor and treat sulfur-containing fuel condensate sent to the wastewater treatment system, and improve the functioning of the wastewater treatment system. The mill must install and maintain a filtration system to minimize air emissions and will add secondary containment around a storage area for black liquor (an intermediate product of making paper).

WHO: An almond orchard
WHERE: Merced, CA
WHAT: Clean Water Act violations
HOW MUCH: $212,000

On March 14, 2019, EPA inspectors determined that earth-moving activities by an almond orchard had allegedly discharged fill material into waters that flow into the San Joaquin River from 2016 to 2020. This work had been undertaken without obtaining a Clean Water Act Section 404 permit from the US Army Corps of Engineers.
These improper discharges impacted more than two acres of rare vernal pool wetlands according to EPA.

To mitigate the potential environmental burden on the area, the company agreed to a settlement requiring the orchard to develop a plan for removing 1.9 acres of fill material, restoring, and enhancing 2.44 acres, and preserving 12.66 acres within an 81.39-acre area that is part of the orchard.

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Tags: Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, EPA, fines, hazardous waste management, penalties, RCRA, roundup

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