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Environmental Enforcement Roundup: PCB Cleanup; School Asbestos Violations; PVC Mfr Penalties; Import Safety Task Force

Environmental Leader’s daily roundup of key environmental enforcement news:

Recycling Company to Pay $52,000 Fine for PCB Violations 

The owner of an inoperative Bridgeport, Conn. brass facility has agreed to pay $52,000 for violating federal regulations covering the disposal, use, storage and marking violations of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). 

The Fairfield-based Connecticut Transfer and Recycling Co., LLC. (CTC) owns the former Bridgeport Brass Company facility in Bridgeport. In 2008, CTC hired a waste transporter to pump out waste oil from an electrical transformer and two 55-gallon drums located at the facility. CTC’s waste oil was not initially identified as containing PCBs and was mixed with waste oil from other companies by the waste transporter and sent off to be recycled. PCBs, however, were discovered in the combined waste and eventually traced back to the waste oil from CTC’s facility. 

This information prompted Connecticut Dept. of Environmental Protection to inspect CTC’s facility for compliance with Toxic Substances Control Act and PCB regulations. The inspection revealed several federal violations, including the improper disposal of PCBs via two spilled or leaking transformers; and failure to comply with various use, storage and marking requirements by not labeling a PCB transformer, not labeling PCB storage areas and not meeting various PCB storage and dating requirements. 

CTC has also agreed to cleanup the PCB spill areas around the transformers. 

PCBs are persistent in the environment and are suspected carcinogens and reproductive and developmental toxicants. Exposure to PCBs can cause liver problems and skin rashes. 

School to Pay Fine for Asbestos Violations 

A private school in Keene, N.H. agreed to pay a cash penalty and make changes in its operations to settle U.S. Environmental Protection Agency claims that it violated federal asbestos management laws. 

According to EPA, officials from the Monadnock Waldorf School did not develop appropriate asbestos management plans or properly notify the school community about the condition of asbestos within the two buildings they occupy, violating the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA), a part of the federal Toxic Substances Control Act. 

Monadnock operates its administration office and an elementary school at one location in Keene, and has a nursery school and kindergarten at another location. EPA learned of the violations during a May 2008 inspection that is part of an ongoing effort to get schools in New England to come into compliance with asbestos management regulations. 

EPA found that Monadnock failed to develop asbestos management plans and failed to provide written notification to parents, teachers, and employee organizations of the availability of such plans on an annual basis. Under the settlement, Monadnock’s penalty, initially set at $12,573, was reduced by $3,906 for work the school completed after EPA’s 2008 inspection to come into compliance with asbestos regulations. In addition, Monadnock will conduct more work, estimated to cost $7,200, to address compliance issues in the future. Monadnock has paid the remaining $1,467 as a monetary penalty. AHERA allows EPA to deduct the cost of compliance from the penalty. 

Although the Monadnock Waldorf School had performed asbestos abatement work in the past, and may have believed that its school buildings were asbestos free, historical data indicates that small amounts of asbestos-containing building materials may still be found at the school. AHERA requires schools to properly manage any asbestos-containing materials present in school buildings. 

Chemical Manufacturer to Pay $800,000 in Penalties 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Commonwealth of Kentucky have settled an enforcement action against a Kentucky-based manufacturer of polyvinyl chloride and related chemicals. 

A consent decree (pdf) resolving claims alleged in a complaint filed last month was lodged yesterday in the U.S. District Court Western District of Kentucky, in Paducah.  

EPA’s complaint alleged that Westlake Vinyls violated both the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act as a result of emissions and releases of benzene and vinyl chloride at two facilities. 

Westlake Vinyls, Inc. operates a facility in Calvert City that manufactures synthetic organic chemicals, and makes as a product or a co-product vinyl chloride, butadiene, benzene and ethylene dichloride. Westlake PVC Corporation make poly vinyl chloride at a nearby facility that is connected to  Westlake Vinyls, Inc. by a pipe, according to EPA. 

Westlake Vinyls agreed to pay a civil penalty of $800,000, of which $687,500.00 will be apportioned to EPA, $12,500 to the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, and the remaining $100,000 to the Commonwealth of Kentucky. 

The settlement requires Westlake Vinyls to monitor and control its various waste streams for benzene and vinyl chloride, and to implement leak detection and elimination plans for both chemicals. The consent decree also calls for the company to implement an air monitoring program, and set up a regular repair and maintenance programs for the facilities. 

After the 30-day public comment period, the Court can then consider and enter the consent decree. 
  
Ten Federal Agencies Meet to Create Import Safety Strategy 

Agency heads and other senior leaders from 10 federal agencies met yesterday at the Interagency Import Safety Conference to focus on efforts to protect the health and safety of the American consumer and the environment from unsafe imports. 

Participants included executives from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service; Consumer Product Safety Commission; Food and Drug Administration; Food Safety and Inspection Service; National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; National Marine Fisheries Service and Department of Homeland Security agencies, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. 

The agency leaders affirmed their commitment to import safety by agreeing to six key principles of import safety, providing a foundation for further collaboration and cooperation among the agencies charged with protecting American consumers from unsafe imports. The principles call for: 

1. The creation of an interagency forum of senior representatives dedicated to import safety cooperation.
2. Continued commitment to information sharing across federal agencies involved in import safety concerns.
3. Enhanced efforts to help the private sector comply with import safety requirements.
4. Development of common systems to exchange information.
5. Strong, consistent enforcement measures to deter imports of unsafe products
6. The use of risk-management strategies to streamline lawful trade.

The participating agencies agreed to an interagency memorandum of understanding which will improve targeting and enforcement efforts at the Commercial Targeting and Analysis Center, a fusion center for agencies to share targeting resources, analysis and expertise to achieve their common goals. 

In recent years, a flood of imported products from children’s toys to building materials have become a risk to consumers.  A steady precession of product recalls and warnings lead to the enactment of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, which established regulatory limits for selected toxins in consumer products, and provided much needed funding for the Consumer Product Safety Commission to carry out its enforcement efforts. The interagency task force is a recent development that recognizes that interagency cooperation is needed to regulate the huge volume of imports entering the U.S.

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