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Environmental Policy Roundup – 10/4/2010

Discount Store to Pay Record Fine for Selling  Illegal Pesticides

A federal judge has ordered  retailer 99 Cents Only Stores to pay $409,490 in penalties for the sale of illegal unregistered and misbranded pesticides contained in household products. The fine is the largest contested penalty ever ordered by an Environmental Protection Agency administrative law judge against a product retailer under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), an EPA press release said.

The company was cited with 166 FIFRA violations concerning the sale of three cleaning and pest control products. One such product was a household cleaner called “Bref Limpieza y Disinfeccion Total con Densicloro” (Bref Complete Cleaning and Disinfection with Bleach), which was not registered with the EPA, despite claims on the label. The product was imported from Mexico and made statements in Spanish that it disinfects or sanitizes surfaces.

The other two products were “Farmer’s Secret Berry & Produce Cleaner,” an unregistered pesticide, and “PiC BORIC ACID Roach Killer III,” which was misbranded because EPA-approved labels were upside-down or inside out, making them hard to read.

FIFRA is a federal law that regulates the sale, distribution and use of pesticides. Before selling a pesticide in the United States, companies must register it with the EPA. Each producer, seller and distributor must also ensure that the registered pesticide is labeled according to agency requirements.

“Consumers who bring cleaning products into their homes expect them to be safe and effective, with clear labeling that gives them the facts,” said Kathy Taylor, associate director of the communities and ecosystems division in the EPA’s regional office. “This penalty should send a deterrent message to retailers that they must comply with the law regulating pesticides.”

According to EPA, 99 Cents Only Stores illegally sold at least 658 bottles of the “Bref” product at stores in California, Arizona and Nevada. The violations were discovered during several inspections by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation and the Nevada Department of Agriculture from 2004 to 2008.

The 99¢ Only Stores retail chain is headquartered in City of Commerce, Calif. and includes 273 stores: 204 in California, 32 in Texas, 25 in Arizona, and 12 in Nevada.

EPA Settles Air Violations with Three Ethanol Plants

In a consent decrees lodged Thursday in the United States District Court for the District of South Dakota, the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reached agreements with the operators of three South Dakota ethanol production facilities to resolve Clean Air Act violations associated with emissions and testing requirements for volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

“EPA expects ethanol production facilities to employ appropriate controls and testing procedures to manage air emissions,” Jim Martin, EPA’s regional administrator in Denver said in a prepared release. “The volatile organic compounds created in the ethanol refining process can contribute to ground-level ozone and create local and regional health concerns.”

As a result of EPA’s investigation, the facilities have enhanced existing controls through repair and renovation of thermal oxidizers and improving scrubber operations. They have also agreed to conduct specific performance testing when demonstrating compliance with VOC limits.

EPA alleges that POET and James Valley violated Clean Air Act regulations at the Groton ethanol facility by failing to maintain an internal floating roof on the liquid inside several storage vessels. This roof is designed to inhibit the volatilization of the ethanol in air by remaining in contact with the surface.  The agency also alleged the facility exceeded certain VOC emissions limits, conducted invalid testing to demonstrate compliance with VOC emissions limits, and failed to install required monitoring devices.

James Valley, Northern Lights and POET have agreed to pay a civil penalty of $150,000 and to remedy deficiencies and adopt approved methods for measuring VOC emissions from the Groton and Big Stone facilities.

In a separate settlement, EPA settled Clean Air Act claims against Dakota Ethanol, LLC at its ethanol production facility near Wentworth, SD.

EPA alleges that Dakota Ethanol violated its permit by exceeding certain VOC emissions limits, conducting inappropriate testing to demonstrate compliance with VOC limits, and failing to conduct required VOC stack testing in a timely manner. EPA also claimed the operators failed to maintain the internal floating roof on the liquid inside several storage vessels at the plant. Dakota Ethanol agreed to remedy deficiencies, implement appropriate testing methods and pay a civil penalty of $75,000.

All three facilities are dry mill ethanol plants that produce ethanol for use as a fuel. Ethanol is primarily a product of industrial corn and is widely used as an automobile fuel by itself or blended with gasoline. During the ethanol manufacturing process, dry mills burn off gases that emit VOCs into the air. VOCs are precursors to ozone formation and pose risks to human health and the environment.

EPA to Consider Kerr-McGhee Plant for Superfund List

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced on Friday that it is moving forward with the process to propose the Kerr-McGee Chemical site at Columbus, Miss. to the National Priorities List (NPL) list of hazardous waste sites.

According to EPA, a formal decision to propose the site may be made as early as March 2011, when a number of other sites across the nation are expected to be proposed to the NPL as part of the federal rulemaking process.

The EPA Superfund Removal Program will continue efforts to identify the levels and extent of contamination in the community surrounding the site, according to an EPA press release. The initial phase of this work will involve the collection of soil and sediment samples at properties near the drainage pathways associated with the site. Representatives from EPA will contact a select number of property owners to request property access for additional EPA sample collection. The sampling results will be evaluated by EPA to determine if further action, including additional sampling or cleanup, is necessary.

EPA said that additional on-site investigation work may be conducted, as necessary, to determine the need for additional cleanup work on the former Kerr-McGee property. EPA is working with the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality to ensure that the existing ground water treatment network continues to operate.

The Kerr-McGee Chemical Site is comprised of approximately 90 acres in Columbus, Mississippi. The facility operated from approximately 1928 to 2003, manufacturing pressure-treated railroad products such as wooden cross ties, switch ties, and timbers. The production processes at the site utilized creosote and creosote coal tar solutions to produce pressure-treated wood products. The facility also used pentachlorophenol (PCP) for wood-treating from the 1950s until the mid-1970s.

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