EPA Enforcement Roundup: Week of 5/23

Posted on 5/23/2022 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 steel production plant
WHERE: Braddock, PA
WHAT: Clean Air Act violations
HOW MUCH: $1.5 million plus a $750,000 Supplemental Environmental Project

A steel company agreed to pay a seven-figure civil penalty and make extensive improvements as part of a settlement for alleged longstanding air pollution violations. EPA cited concerns of particulate matter, especially particles less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter (PM2.5), dating as far back as 2016. PM2.5 pose a significant risk to health, particularly respiratory health.

In addition, the company will provide $750,000 in funding to the Allegheny County Department of Economic Development towards the creation of a multimodal connection trail for hikers and bicyclists that links the Great Allegheny Passage in Rankin Borough to the Westmoreland Heritage Trail in Trafford Borough through the Turtle Creek Valley.

WHO: A meatpacking facility
WHERE: Vernon, CA
WHAT: Risk Management Plan violations
HOW MUCH: $237,537

On September 21, 2017, EPA inspected an animal slaughtering and meat processing facility and found violations of the Clean Air Act’s Risk Management Program requirements. The alleged violations include failure to identify emergency exhaust pipe and pressure valve hazards, failure to repair a malfunctioning ammonia sensor, and failure to maintain sufficient safety information for the facility’s alarms and process equipment.

As part of the agreement, the meat processor repaired damaged refrigeration equipment, added safety signage and labeling, and improved emergency ventilation systems to ensure the public and first responders are protected from potentially dangerous chemicals.

WHO: An ice supplier
WHERE: New Bedford, MA
WHAT: Risk Management Plan violations
HOW MUCH: $170,000

Following a 2018 anhydrous ammonia release, EPA discovered multiple Risk Management Plan violations at an ice production facility, such as failure to compile required written process safety information and failure to fully comply with process hazard analysis requirements. EPA also found the facility failed to properly train employees, which helps ensure workers and emergency responders have the information they need to safely respond to an accidental release.

Companies that rely on cooling processes often use anhydrous ammonia as a refrigerant, but it can be very dangerous when released into the environment. In its gaseous form, it is flammable and combustible. The Clean Air Act requires that companies storing over 10,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia must submit a risk management plan.

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Tags: chemical management, Clean Air Act, EPA, Risk Management Plan, roundup

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