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EPA Penalty Signals Stricter Chemical Enforcement

A recent civil penalty against Dover Chemical Corporation has fueled speculation that the EPA has stepped up enforcement of toxic substances, a development that could compel companies to improve their reporting and inventory operations.

Dover Chemical, which produces the vast majority of chlorinated products sold in the U.S., agreed earlier this year to pay $1.4 million in civil penalties for the unauthorized manufacture of chemical substances at its Dover, Ohio and Hammond, Ind., facilities. The settlement resolved violations of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) premanufacture notice obligations for its production of various chlorinated paraffins.

Under terms of the settlement, Dover Chemical will stop making short-chain chlorinated paraffins, which have persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic PBT characteristics, according to the EPA. Dover Chemical also will submit premanufacture notices to the EPA for various medium-chain and long-chain chlorinated paraffin products.

Chemicals not listed on the TSCA inventory are classified as new, and before they can be manufactured or imported for commercial use, a notice must be filed with EPA. The recent action by the EPA stands out because the agency has allowed entities for decades to describe their polychlorinated alkane substances using broad “alkanes, chloro”  chemical abstracts service numbers, according to a ChemicalProcessing editor Lynn Bergeson. That is, until now.

The EPA now says a broad listing of “alkanes, chloro” doesn’t sufficiently describe a chemical substance for TSCA purposes if the manufacturer knew or should have known that a more-specific chemical description would better reflect the chemical identity of the substances, Bergeson wrote.

Bergeson also noted that the case shows EPA is using various databases to assess compliance and that the federal agency may be using its TSCA administrative subpeona authority more routinely.

The upshot is that companies will have to pay closer attention to how the chemicals they make are identified, to ensure they fit specific TSCA terminology and inventory agreements.

The EPA has already made moves to make reporting more transparent and increase its powers to limit the use of 14 chemicals.

Earlier this month, the agency proposed a rule to require electronic reporting for certain information submitted to the agency under TSCA. The rule would require reporting into the EPA Central Data Exchange in an effort to reduce reporting burdens, costs and speed up public access to chemical information, the EPA said.

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