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Environmental Enforcement Roundup: Chemical Plant Settlement; Plating Facility Demolition; Hospital Agreement

Environmental Leader’s daily roundup of key environmental enforcement news

Chemical Manufacturer Settles with EPA

HPI Products, a chemical and pesticide manufacturing company, and St. Joseph Properties, LLC, which owns most of HPI’s production and storage facilities, have agreed to pay a total of approximately $173,500 plus future response costs to settle the civil claims, according to a consent decree lodged yesterday in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Mo.

According to the consent decree,  $62,500 to the United States, and $62,500 to the State of Missouri. William Garvey, who owns HPI Products and St. Joseph Properties, has agreed to pay $12,500 to the United States and $12,500 to the State of Missouri, according to the settlement. Garvey has also agreed to sell his collection of 12 automobiles and three boats and pay the proceeds of the sales to both settlement funds.

HPI Products agreed to pay an $5,980.30 to reimburse the State of Missouri for past costs incurred in responding to and overseeing previous chemical cleanup activities at the company’s facilities, and another $17,540 to the state for future oversight costs.

Together, the defendants have agreed through the settlement to cover the costs of a forthcoming environmental investigation and subsequent cleanup of HPI Products’ contaminated facilities. Those facilities include HPI Products’ six production facilities in the Kansas City area.

Because each step of the forthcoming environmental investigation is dependent on the findings from the previous step, total cleanup costs cannot presently be estimated. However, EPA has estimated that costs for the investigation alone could exceed $500,000.

According to EPA, HPI Products has a long history of enforcement actions taken by EPA Region 7 and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (MDNR). In 2005 and twice in 2006, MDNR representatives inspected the company’s main production plant and found multiple hazardous waste violations of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). In 2007, EPA and MDNR representatives inspected the main production facility and other HPI facilities in the area and noted additional RCRA violations. Additional inspections and file reviews noted pollutant discharge violations of the federal Clean Water Act (CWA), and chemical reporting violations of the federal Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA).

On December 23, 2008, the U.S. Department of Justice and the State of Missouri filed a civil complaint against HPI Products in federal court in Kansas City, Mo., alleging a series of violations of CWA, RCRA and EPCRA, and applicable state law equivalents. The proposed consent decree settles those claims.

In separate but related criminal cases prosecuted last year in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Mo., Garvey pleaded guilty to violating the Clean Water Act and was sentenced to six months of confinement and six months in home detention, and ordered to pay a $100,000 criminal fine. HPI Products entered a corporate guilty plea to violating the Clean Water Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and the corporation was ordered to pay a $300,000 criminal fine. HPI Products’ vice president, Hans Nielsen, also pled guilty to violating sections of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and was. sentenced to three years’ probation and ordered to pay a $4,000 criminal fine.

In his 2009 guilty plea, Garvey admitted that for nearly 20 years he instructed his employees at various HPI Products locations to wash wastes, spills and equipment rinses down floor drains which were connected to St. Joseph’s sewer system. Garvey did not authorize sufficient expenditures for the proper disposal of HPI Products’ wastes until 2006.

In HPI Products’ 2009 guilty plea, the company admitted illegally storing numerous 55-gallon drums of hazardous waste, including chlordane, selenium and heptachlor, at its facilities without a permit.

EPA Moves Forward with Demolition of Plating Facility

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 5 on Monday began demolition of a building at the site of the Economy Plating facility in Chicago where a chrome plating shop operated on the site, until it was abandoned in 2003.

Demolition comes after a number of interim steps to protect the community from potentially dangerous contamination were taken. During the initial cleanup in May 2009, EPA found hexavalent chromium, a carcinogen, seeping out of the brick walls at concentrations more than 3,000 times higher than safe levels. This posed an unacceptable threat to the community, especially with residences on three sides. EPA also found and removed several hundred containers of hazardous substances such as chromium, cyanide, arsenic and lead.

EPA installed temporary barriers to cover the contaminated walls and sought to remove the hexavalent chromium source by demolishing the building. Not all the building’s owners gave permission for the demolition, however, so EPA took legal action under the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act and was granted legal authority to tear down the building on Sept. 28. Once the demolition is complete, EPA will dig up and remove contaminated soil, then put in clean fill dirt.

Illinois EPA, Chicago Department of the Environment, Chicago Fire Department and the office of 32nd Ward Alderman Scott Waguespak are working with EPA to facilitate the cleanup.

Long Island Hospital to Revamp Waste Practices

Long Island’s Southampton Hospital has entered into an agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to enhance the hospital’s environmental practices. The hospital has pledged to eliminate mercury, reduce and recycle solid waste, conserve energy and water, and establish policies for purchasing green products.

“Doctors take an oath ‘to do no harm’ and Southampton Hospital is extending that commitment to protecting people from environmental harm,” Regional Administrator Judith Enck said in a press release. “By reducing waste, preventing pollution and buying more sustainable products, they are creating a healthier world for everyone.”

Under the agreement between Southampton Hospital and EPA, the hospital agreed to reduce and eliminate mercury and other toxic substances throughout its facility and 
join EPA’s WasteWise program, which provides technical assistance in developing waste reduction and recycling plans. A cardboard compactor will be purchased and installed at the hospital loading dock so cardboard packaging can be recycled. The hospital estimates that it will recycle 10 tons of cardboard each year.

Southampton Hospital also agreed to join the EPA ENERGY STAR Program and set a goal of reducing energy use by10 percent and to use water-saving WaterSense products in the renovation and upgrading of existing buildings and in new buildings. This will reduce water usage and the associated energy needs. An average WaterSense plumbing fixture saves 13,000 gallons each year, according to EPA.  The hospital also agreed to use materials with recycled content for construction wherever possible.

EPA has similar agreements in place with a number of major sports organizations, universities, hospital systems and real estate firms in New York and New Jersey, the agency said.

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