Schneider Electric Fined $6.8M in Largest-Ever Superfund Cleanup Penalty
Schneider Electric has been hit with a $6.8 million penalty for alleged environmental violations â the largest-ever stipulated penalty for cleanup of a Superfund site and the third largest overall in EPA history.
The EPA says Schneider Electric violated the terms of a 2002 court-approved Superfund consent decree during its cleanup at the Rodale Manufacturing Superfund site located in Emmaus, Pennsylvania, resulting in emissions of hazardous air pollutants.
âWe will not tolerate violation of our consent decrees, especially where those violations can result in risks to public health, welfare and the environmentâ said EPA regional administrator Shawn M. Garvin in announcing the penalty.
As part of the settlement, Schneider Electric has neither admitted nor denied liability for the alleged violations. But the energy management companyâs attorney did provide Environmental Leader with a statement from an unnamed Schneider Electric spokesperson.
âSchneider Electric takes seriously its responsibility to remediate the Rodale Manufacturing Site and has worked in good faith with the government to continue to protect public health and the environment,â the statement said. âSchneider Electric regrets this matter and has worked with the EPA and Pa. DEP to implement several rigorous measures to improve our oversight at Rodale.
âSchneider Electric has a long and proud history of environmental stewardship and environmental sustainability here in the United States, and across the world.Â We set high standards for ourselves, and have applied lessons from this matter as part of our commitment to continuous improvement. We remain fully and firmly committed to our communities, our customers, our stakeholders, and our employees and to achieving our goal for global environmental leadership.â
The penalty stems from pollution at the Rodale Manufacturing site, which was added to the Superfund list of the nationâs most contaminated sites and began cleanup activities in 1991.
This site has a long history of electrical component manufacturing, starting in the 1930âs by Rodale Manufacturing Company and continuing when a subsidiary of Square D Company purchased the facility in 1975. Schneider purchased the Square D Company and currently produces electrical distribution equipment including circuit breakers, switches and infrared measurement devices.
The Superfund consent decree to remove groundwater contamination at the site requires a groundwater pump and treat system, groundwater monitoring and air pollution controls to prevent emissions during the cleanup operations.
The Schneider Electric penalty follows a series of EPA investigations that have forced manufactures to pay to clean up polluted water or air at Superfund sites.
Earlier this year, the agency sent letters to Honeywell and Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics demanding that they finance a Superfund cleanup in upstate New Yorkâs Hoosick Falls after confirming perfluorooctonaoic acid (PFOA) from the site had contaminated the municipal water system and telling about 4,500 local residents to stop drinking the water.
PFOA is a man-made chemical used in non-stick cookware, waterproof clothing and dozens of other industrial applications. The EPA is investigating PFOA under the Toxic Substances Control Act because it is very persistent in the environment and remains in peopleâs blood for a very long time. It can cause developmental problems in lab animals.
The New York Department of Environmental Conservation traced PFOA to a factory acquired by Saint-Gobain and previously operated by Honeywell predecessor AlliedSignal Laminated Systems. The EPA said other companies may also be held liable in the future.
During fiscal year 2015 the EPA secured almost $2 billion in commitments from responsible parties to clean up Superfund sites. In October 12 private parties including ExxonMobil, BP, DuPont and Veolia agreed to pay more than $3.5 million as part of a settlement with the EPA related to the Metro Container Superfund Site in Trainer, Pennsylvania.
That same month the EPA reached a $55 million settlement with Shell Oil Company and the US General Services Administration for the cleanup of contaminated soil at the Del Amo Superfund Site in Los Angeles, California.
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