On April 23, Edward Fixen, a former electroplating operator in
San Luis Obispo, Calif., was sentenced to 18 months in prison for
violating the Clean Water Act (CWA) by discharging toxics into
the community sewer system. Fixen violated his electroplating
facility's CWA discharge permit by intentionally releasing higher
than permitted levels of cyanide, nickel and corrosives into the
sewer system, which discharges into San Luis Creek and the
Pacific Ocean. Furthermore, trial witnesses testified that he
attempted to conceal his illegal activity by trying to circumvent
a monitoring device placed in the sewer by the city. Cyanide and
nickel are highly toxic and can threaten the health of sewage
treatment plant workers. Discharging unpermitted levels of
cyanide, nickel and corrosives can also damage sewage treatment
facilities and lead to the discharge of chemicals and improperly
treated sewage into surface waters, creating a public exposure
risk and harming fish and wildlife. The case was investigated by
EPA's Criminal Investigation Division, the FBI, the San Luis
Obisbo Industrial Wastewater Division, the City Attorney's
office, the county District Attorney's office, the California
EPA, and the Santa Barbara/San Luis Regional Environmental Task
Force. It was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Los
SMALL BUSINESS PROTECTION ACT PASSES HOUSE
The House of Representatives passed legislation introduced by Congressman Paul E. Gillmor (R-OH) to give relief to small businesses from huge litigation and clean up costs at waste disposal sites. The Bill HR. 1831, the Small Business Liability Protection Act, passed unanimously (419 to 0).
Gillmor said, "Under current law numerous small businesses have been hit with tens or even thousands of dollars of legal costs for putting ordinary waste in local landfills. They have faced these costs even though what they disposed of was legal, non-toxic and picked up by their local trash collection service. This is simply not fair."
The bill adds a small-business liability exemption to the nationÆ s Superfund law. The Small Business Liability Protection Act shields businesses from the cost of a Superfund site clean up if they did not contribute a significant amount of non-hazardous waste. This bill also provides protection from frivolous and protracted litigation. Chairman Gillmor introduced this legislation as a response to the anguish and anxiety that individuals, families, and small business owners across our country suffered as a result of the Superfund liability scheme.
"HR. 1831 will take a giant step towards ending 20 years worth of lawsuits and protracted litigation. It will have a positive impact on people like Greg Shierling of Springfield, Illinois, who took over a McDonaldÆs business from his parents in 1996. In 1999, he was informed that he was financially responsible, to the tune of $65,000, for cleanup of a landfill that his parents had legally trucked trash to 30 years ago when young Greg was in grade school," Gillmor said. "H.R. 1831 will bring some sanity and fairness to Superfund liability."
Specifically, HR. 1831 provides that a person is not responsible for the costs associated with cleanup at a Superfund site if they disposed or arranged for the disposal of less than 110 gallons of non-hazardous liquid or less than 200 pounds of non-hazardous solid materials. The Municipal Solid Waste Exemption provision excludes businesses from liability under Superfund if they generated their waste onsite and employ no more than 100 workers. In addition to insulating small businesses from protracted litigation, the bill allows the Environmental Protection Agency to settle a cleanup claim with a business for a lesser amount if the business can show a financial inability to pay for the cleanup and otherwise fully cooperates with the government in its cleanup efforts.
Soon, the environment and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee plans
to begin work on brownfields reform legislation.
EPA CITES BACARDI FOR CLEAN WATER ACT VIOLATIONS
The Bacardi Corporation was recently cited by the EPA for violating the federal Clean Water Act and could face up to $137,500 in fines. EPA has alleged that the company illegally discharged certain wastes, exceeded effluent limits and failed to obtain permit coverage for its stormwater discharges.
Barcardi was cited for failing to seek permit coverage for its stormwater discharge in a timely manner. The facility was without permit coverage from December 1998 to December 2000. As local studies and reports show, stormwater runoff is a major contributor to water pollution in Puerto Rico.
"It is particularly imperative that Bacardi control stormwater runoff, because ultimately, the discharges end up in the San Juan Bay. The Bay is an environmentally and economically important estuary that EPA, the Puerto Rico government, the city and local stakeholders are working very hard to clean up," said William J. Muszynski, Acting EPA Regional Administrator.
According to the complaint issued to the company by EPA, Barcardi also discharged about 3,000 gallons of mostos, an industrial waste from its rum processing plant, into the Old Bayamon River Channel. BacardiÆs National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit does not authorize such discharges. In addition, the companyÆs own monitoring reports showed that its treated wastewater discharge exceeded permit limits for oxygen demand and sometimes solids in March and April 1997, September and October 1999, and February, March, May, June, July and October 2000. Oxygen demand limits are set to ensure that wastewater does not cause a deficit of oxygen in the receiving water, which is needed for marine life. The company is currently working under an Administrative Compliance Order, issued prior to the recent complaint, which seeks compliance with the Clean Water Act and the permit.
The Clean Water Act requires permits for any wastewater
discharged into a waterway of the United States. These permits
limit allowable levels of pollution in a companyÆs wastewater
discharge and require it to control pollution levels, monitor and
provide information to EPA about the discharge and maintain
records. In addition, under the Clean Water Act, certain
companies must obtain permit coverage for its stormwater
discharges, which requires them to develop and implement
pollution prevention plans to minimize runoff of polluted storm
water and to monitor their storm water discharges.
MICHIGAN MAN CONVICTED FOR VIOLATING CLEAN WATER ACT
On May 14, Michael J. Kuhn of Bay City, Mich., was convicted of
violating the Clean Water Act by ordering employees at a waste
treatment plant to pump sewage sludge into an emergency outfall
ditch that flowed into the Saginaw River and for falsifying
records. Kuhn was, at the time of the violation, Superintendent
of the Bay City Wastewater Treatment Plant. In June 1997, Kuhn
knowingly ordered an employee to falsify a data record related to
the plant's influent. Kuhn thereafter certified the accuracy of
the false data in a monthly report submitted to the Michigan
Department of Environmental Quality. Pumping sewage sludge into
surface waters can present an infection risk to people who come
into contact with the water, make the water unsuitable for
drinking and recreational purposes and can harm fish and
wildlife. When sentenced, Kuhn faces a maximum sentence of up to
12 years in prison and/or fines of up to $1 million. The case was
investigated by EPA's Criminal Investigation Division and the
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality with the assistance
of EPA's National Enforcement Investigations Center and was
prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Detroit.
EPA PROPOSES NEW HAZARDOUS WASTE MANIFEST
On May 22, 2001, the Modification of the Hazardous Waste Manifest System Proposed Rule was published in the Federal Register (66 FR 28240).
The rule proposes to standardize both the manifest form,
manifesting procedures, as well as to provide you the option to
complete, sign, and transmit manifests electronically. EPA is
also proposing manifest tracking procedures for RCRA hazardous
waste shipment loads rejected by the TSDF, and shipments of
non-empty waste containers containing waste residues. The agency
is accepting comments on the proposal until August 20, 2001. A
copy of the proposed rule, a fact sheet, and related documents is
EPA, AUSTIN PLASTICS SETTLE RIGHT-TO-KNOW CASE FOR $10,529
EPA settled a complaint last week against Austin Plastics, a manufacturer in Huntington Beach, that requires the company to pay $10,529 for alleged federal community right-to-know violations.
EPA alleged that the Austin Plastics facility at 18061 Redondo Circle failed to file complete and accurate reports estimating its releases of toxic chemicals to the environment. Specifically, EPA alleged three counts of failure to submit a timely Toxic Chemical Release Inventory Form ("Form R") for styrene. Austin Plastics manufactures grocery store displays, plastic bags, and other small plastic products.
"Companies who handle hazardous chemicals owe it to their employees and the surrounding community to report how those materials are being used, stored and disposed of," said Enrique Manzanilla, director of the EPA's Cross Media Division in San Francisco. "We intend on making sure that communities remain aware of chemical use in their neighborhood."
EPA staff discovered the alleged violations during a multi-media environmental inspection on January 4, 2000. The EPA initially issued the complaint to Austin Plastics on August 23, 2000.
The Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act requires annual reports to the EPA and the state from facilities that use or manufacture certain toxic chemicals over a specified amount. The reports provide estimates of the amounts of each toxic chemical released to the environment, treated or recycled on-site, or transferred off-site to another facility.
Sites that are subject to Section 313 of the Emergency Planning
and Community Right to Know Act must submit their Form R by July
U.S. SIGNS CONVENTION ON PERSISTENT ORGANIC POLLUTANTS
EPA Administrator Christie Whitman recently signed the Convention on behalf of the United States in Stockholm, Sweden. Ministers from over ninety countries joined the U.S. in signing the treaty. The United States, among the very first to call for a global POPs Convention, provided strong leadership in Stockholm to bring this important environmental treaty to a successful conclusion.
President Bush, in a Rose Garden ceremony on April 19, attended by Secretary of State Powell and Administrator Whitman, strongly supported this agreement to rid the world of these highly toxic chemicals and pesticides. The President hailed the treaty as one that would safeguard the health of Americans, particularly those most at risk, such as native Alaskans, while extending a helping hand to developing countries.
In her address to the Diplomatic Conference, Administrator Whitman stressed the U.S. commitment to continued strong leadership on POPs. She noted that the United States donated $22 million to POPs-related assistance since 1997, including a planned $3.5 million for this fiscal year. The United States was praised by UN officials for its consistent and strong financial support for the negotiations.
The United States worked closely with other countries to reach a broad consensus on an ambitious interim work plan that will focus on ways to quickly address the twelve chemicals targeted in the treaty. Once in force, the Convention's dynamic provisions permit the addition of other POPs chemicals.
Due to their unique characteristics, POPS, which include substances such as DDT, PCBs and dioxins, are chemicals of both local and global concern. POPs are toxic, persist in the environment for long periods of time, and accumulate as they move up the food chain.
The Administration plans to move swiftly to submit the treaty for the advice and consent of the U.S. Senate. A global agreement is necessary, urgent and in the national interest because POPs released abroad can affect the health and environment of all Americans. The U.S. has already banned or severely restricted the production, use, sale and/or release of these chemicals. However, many countries have taken little or no action.