Environmental Whistleblowers Get $437,500 Each for Reporting Violations

April 02, 2007

Overseas Shipholding Group Inc. (OSG) pleaded guilty and was sentenced on March 21 in federal court to pay $27 million for violations in Boston; Portland, Maine; Los Angeles; San Francisco; and Wilmington, N.C., announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Matthew J. McKeown, U.S. Attorney Michael J. Sullivan for the District of Massachusetts, and U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Timothy Sullivan.

In addition to the fine, OSG was sentenced to serve a three-year term of probation during which it must implement and follow a stringent environmental compliance program that includes a court-appointed monitor and outside independent auditing of OSG ships trading worldwide. In January, OSG pleaded guilty to additional charges in Beaumont, Texas, and is awaiting sentencing in that case for which it has agreed to pay another $10 million.

The total $37 million plea agreement is the largest ever involving deliberate vessel pollution. The charges involving 12 OSG oil tankers range from June 2001 to March 2006 and include violations of the Clean Water Act as amended by the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships, conspiracy, false statements, and obstruction of justice. The proposed $37 million penalty includes a $27.8 million criminal fine which will be divided among the districts and a $9.2 million organizational community service payment that will fund various marine environmental projects coast to coast. At the sentencing hearing held in Boston, U.S. District Judge Reginald C. Lindsay said, “There should be no tolerance for those who deliberately despoil the environment.”

In imposing the sentence on OSG, Judge Lindsay granted a motion to award 12 current and former OSG crew members with $437,500 each for their role in blowing the whistle on illegal conduct. The provision for a whistleblower award is set forth in the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships and provides that individuals providing information leading to conviction may be awarded up to half of a criminal fine. The $437,500 award is based on the fine imposed according to the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships.

According to a motion filed by prosecutors proposing the award, the individuals awarded by the court include:

A fitter of the M/T Uranus who made a bypass pipe on the orders of the chief engineer, but only after having his employment threatened. He was so outraged by the dumping close to the New England shore that he created a secret journal inside another book in which he recorded the dates it was used to make illegal discharges.

A first engineer of the M/T Overseas Shirley who wrote a letter to OSG in 2002 alleging that the ship's chief engineer was a "habitual criminal of illegal sludge discharge to sea." He estimated that approximately 40,600 gallons of sludge was discharged overboard.

A second engineer of the M/T Overseas Portland who wrote a note to the U.S. Coast Guard and gave it to a port employee in Portland, Maine. The note, which was given to OSG, and then turned over to prosecutors by OSG, alleged that the chief engineer was making unlawful discharges.

A fourth engineer on the M/T Alcesmar, who was to be sent home to the Philippines after making allegations to OSG, contacted the U.S. Coast Guard with the help of a hotel night clerk in Wilmington, N.C. and turned over evidence taken from the ship.

A second engineer on the M/T Ania who contacted OSG via an Internet caf alleging that the chief engineer and first engineer were tampering with the ship’s oil content meter by flushing a sensor designed to detect oil with fresh water during overboard discharges.

A third engineer and an electrician of the M/T Pacific Sapphire who reported to OSG that they had been ordered to recalibrate the oil content meter. They asked the chief engineer to fix the problem and took samples of the effluent to show him that oil was being discharged overboard.

A second engineer and third engineer and two oilers of the M/T Pacific Ruby who together called a U.S. Coast Guard hotline to report that the chief engineer was tampering with newly installed anti-tricking equipment that resulted in flushing a sensor designed to detect oil with fresh water during discharges in the Gulf of Mexico.

According to papers filed in court, illegal discharges of sludge and oily waste were deliberately concealed through the use of false oil record books, a required log regularly inspected by the U.S. Coast Guard when the ships were in U.S. ports. Discharges were also concealed by other means such as by making discharges at night, painting flanges on overboard piping to hide marks caused by the use of bypass pipes, and hiding bypass equipment during port calls. In other instances, pollution prevention equipment known as an oily water separator was “tricked” by flushing a sensor designed to detect oil with fresh water during overboard discharges.

Prosecutors filed a sentencing memorandum with the court that on the one hand, highlighted the seriousness of OSG’s offenses and also recognized the company for certain cooperative acts and remedial measures. In its filing, prosecutors told the court that, “the defendant’s criminal conduct did not involve a solitary violation that might be explained as a single instance of bad judgment or the acts of a rogue employee. The violations at issue in this case were so systemic, repetitive and longstanding that the criminal conduct amounted to a serious failure of corporate and shore-side management. Criminal violations continued on some ships during the three years in which OSG was under investigation, including six vessels on which OSG self-reported violations. Prosecutors credited OSG’s self-disclosures, cooperation, and compliance measures taken by proposing fewer charges and reduced criminal fines.

Papers filed in court, including a joint factual statement signed by OSG, admits to specific violations on each of the vessels. In one case, OSG made illegal releases of oily waste from approximately August 2001 to October 2003 from the M/T Uranus into waters off the coast of New England, in close proximity to Maine and Massachusetts, including Mt. Desert Island and the island of Nantucket. Discharges were made from the M/T Uranus through a long flexible hose trailed overboard at night, then through a hard bypass pipe that the ship’s fitter was forced to make, and at a later point in time, by flushing an oil detecting sensor with fresh water. In another case, OSG violated the Clean Water Act by knowingly discharging approximately 2,640 gallons of oily waste and sludge from the M/T Neptune off the coast of North Carolina.

Three Shipping Companies Indicted for Covering up Pollution

Three companies that own and operate an oceangoing chemical tanker named the M/T Clipper Trojan were indicted last week in connection with an attempt by crew members to cover up the illegal dumping of oily waste in international waters, the Justice Department announced recently.


The 11-count indictment named Clipper Wonsild Tankers Holding A/S and Clipper Marine Services A/S, both of which are Danish companies that operate and manage the M/T Clipper Trojan, and Trojan Shipping Co. Ltd., a Bahamas company that is the registered owner of the M/T Clipper Trojan, as defendants. All three companies are part of The Clipper Group A/S, a global shipping consortium based in Denmark.

According to the indictment, crew members of the tanker dumped oil sludge directly overboard on two occasions in May and June of 2006, and regularly dumped oil-contaminated bilge water overboard between March and June of 2006. Furthermore, crew members of the tanker attempted to prevent the U.S. Coast Guard from learning of the illegal discharges during an inspection of the ship at Port Newark on June 15, 2006.

Engine room operations on board large oceangoing vessels such as the M/T Clipper Trojan generate large amounts of waste oil. International and U.S. law prohibit the discharge of waste oil without treatment by an oily water separator. It is also required that all overboard discharges be recorded in an oil record book, a required log which is regularly inspected by the Coast Guard.

According to the indictment, the ship’s chief engineer failed to record discharges in the ship’s oil record book and included false entries in the book that were intended to mislead the Coast Guard. The chief engineer presented the false oil record book to the Coast Guard during the Coast Guard’s inspection. According to the indictment, the chief engineer made several false statements to Coast Guard inspectors and encouraged other crew members to lie to the Coast Guard as well.

The indictment alleges that the crew members acted as agents for the three corporate defendants in attempting to cover up the illegal discharges of oily waste. It also alleges that the three companies failed to provide sufficient training to the crew and failed to diligently enforce company policies concerning the handling of oily waste. The indictment further alleges that the companies caused some crew members to execute affidavits falsely stating that the crew members had received briefings on the MARPOL Protocol, an international treaty regulating the handling and disposal of oil waste at sea, and U.S. laws concerning oil pollution.

On Feb. 2, 2007, Fernando Magnaye, 45, of Quezon City, Philippines, who was the chief engineer on the M/T Clipper Trojan, pleaded guilty to charges of presenting a false document to the Coast Guard and attempting to obstruct a Coast Guard inspection. During his plea hearing before U.S. District Judge Mary L. Cooper, in Trenton, Magnaye admitted that he knew about illegal discharges of oil sludge and contaminated bilge waste but nonetheless failed to record those discharges in the M/T Clipper Trojan's Oil Record Book. Magnaye also admitted that he presented the false oil record book to the Coast Guard and falsely claimed to Coast Guard inspectors that the book was accurate. Mangaye further admitted that he asked the ship's fourth engineer to fabricate a pipe that would ensure that the Coast Guard would take a false reading of the contents of the ship's bilge sludge oil tank, in which oily waste was stored.

The indictment charges each of the companies with one count of conspiracy, one count of violation of the MARPOL Protocol, one count of making and using materially false writings and documents, seven counts of obstruction of justice, and one count of concealment of a tangible object to obstruct an investigation.

If convicted, the companies face statutory maximum fines of $500,000 on each count or, alternatively, twice the amount of any gain to the corporations that inured as a result of the criminal conduct.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Bradley A. Harsch of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey and H. Claire Whitney, senior counsel for the U.S. Department of Justice Environmental Crimes Section. The investigation was conducted by U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service.


$150 Penalty for Asbestos Renovation Violations



The penalty for the building owner, Cheng, Chow and Chu, Inc, is $149,000. The construction company, Sincere Construction, will pay a $1,500 penalty.

In August 2000, Cheng, Chow and Chu hired Sincere Construction to remove regulated asbestos-containing materials – such as acoustic ceiling, tiles, linoleum, insulation, fire-proofing, and stucco – from property it was renovating. Ultimately, more than 31,000 square feet of asbestos-containing material was removed from the building, which was used as a chiropractic college before closing.

Inspections of the building by EPA and Bay Area Air Quality Management officials uncovered numerous asbestos emission and disposal violations. Debris collected at the site for analysis showed extremely high levels of asbestos. Inspectors verified that the asbestos was not kept wet and emissions to the outside air were apparent. In addition, Sincere Construction is not a certified asbestos contractor as required by law.

“Because of its potential for endangering health, asbestos removal demands the utmost care and specialized training,” said Deborah Jordan, director of the Air Division in the EPA’s Pacific Southwest region. “Companies that provide removal services must ensure that their employees are properly trained to prevent asbestos exposure to the public.”

Asbestos is a known environmental carcinogen that the EPA has determined is a hazardous air pollutant. It presents a significant risk to human health as a result of air emissions. Individuals exposed to asbestos fibers can contract illnesses such as mesothelioma and lung cancer.


EPA Cuts Penalty for Innovative “Fish and Chips” Plan


The EPA and Snug Harbor Seafood, Inc. (Snug Harbor), an Alaskan seafood processor located in Kenai, Alaska, have agreed to settle Snug Harbor’s past violations of its Clean Water Act NPDES permit. Under the terms of the settlement, Snug Harbor will pay $8,016 in penalties and an estimated $26,000 for an innovative pollution reduction project.

Snug Harbor, like most Alaskan seafood processors and unlike many seafood processors in the contiguous U.S., discharges seafood waste into nearby waterways. For Snug Harbor, those nearby waterways are the Kenai River and Cook Inlet, waters regulated by the federal Clean Water Act (CWA). The NPDES program is a key part of the CWA because it limits discharges of pollution from entering waterways.

EPA and the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation inspected Snug Harbor on July 30, 2002, and July 28, 2004, and found that Snug Harbor was not in compliance with its NPDES permit. Snug Harbor had not informed EPA about changes to its operation, failed to grind its seafood waste to ½” or smaller before discharging, and did not perform daily inspections of its operations and the surface and shoreline to ensure the facility was operating correctly.

During negotiations, EPA agreed to give Snug Harbor credit for $26,582 that Snug Harbor wanted to put into creating a non-profit company, named “Fish and Chips.” Fish and Chips will turn discarded wood chips and at least ten tons per year of fish wastes into compost and then bag the product for local retail sale.

“We are pleased that Snug Harbor is taking a leadership role by showing industry that fish wastes can be made into an environmentally beneficial product rather than pollute waterways,” said Tara Martich, EPA’s NPDES compliance officer. “EPA hopes other seafood processors follow Snug Harbor’s lead, by using the Fish and Chips facility, or by creating additional, innovative ways to use fish wastes, thereby keeping such wastes out of our rivers, bays, and oceans.”


EPA Fines University for RCRA Violations


A unique agreement between the EPA and the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) promises a safer environment for students, faculty, and workers not only at the university's campuses but at all the schools in the territory. EPA has cited the university for multiple violations of rules under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act that govern how to handle hazardous waste. The settlement announced goes beyond requiring the university to correct these violations by requiring them to spend at least $99,000 to help all U.S. Virgin Islands' schools to comply with environmental rules. The university must also pay a penalty of $20,000.

"The UVI will help ensure good environmental stewardship throughout the entire VI educational community," said Alan J. Steinberg, EPA regional administrator. "This settlement is a true win-win for the territory."

Under the terms of the agreement, UVI has committed to train its staff and faculty from both campuses and conduct a series of assessments, reports, mentoring, and seminars to help other school facilities better handle their own environmental obligations.

The settlement being announced requires the university to correct all of the alleged violations that EPA observed during its inspections to the extent that it has not already done so. The violations included failing to store incompatible waste chemicals separately, failing to determine which of the wastes that it generate are hazardous wastes, and failing to minimize the risk of fires, explosions, and the release of hazardous wastes and hazardous waste constituents. EPA also found that the university had not properly labeled containers of hazardous waste, had not regularly inspected the chemical waste storage areas, and had not provided proper training to employees.

Over the past four years, EPA inspected 58 colleges and universities and issued administrative complaints with penalties totaling more than $2.6 million against 20 colleges and universities in New Jersey, New York, and Puerto Rico. This is the first such action in the Virgin Islands. The Colleges and Universities Initiative is an ongoing program with additional investigations anticipated. Educational institutions can self-report violations and get relief from a portion of the penalties in exchange.

EPA Fines Two Companies for Selling Off-Spec, Misbranded Products


A pesticide producer and a telemarketer and distributor in Suffolk County, New York will pay a total of $145,000 for violating the federal pesticide law. Both companies allegedly sold off-spec, misbranded products, with the second also making false claims, according to the EPA. The agency cited the Topaz Turf Corporation in Holtsville and its distributor, Southern Chemical Supply, Inc. in Bohemia. In its complaint, EPA alleged that both companies had been involved in distributing off-spec and misbranded pesticides to the public since at least October 2003. Topaz has agreed to pay $65,000 and Southern has agreed to pay $80,000 in financial penalties under the agreements with EPA.

“Companies which sell misformulated, unregistered, or misbranded pesticides to unsuspecting customers and telemarketers that make misstatements about products will pay a stiff price for their disservice to the public and the environment, both in fines and the trust of their clients,” said EPA Regional Administrator Alan J. Steinberg. “EPA and its partners in the states are keeping a close eye on would be violators.”

Any pesticide product, such as a weed killer, contains a certain percentage of active chemical ingredients approved by EPA for a specific end-use. By law, these registered formulations must match the information on the product label and must have the correct EPA product registration numbers. The percentage of active ingredient in the weed killer sold by Topaz and/or Southern didn’t match the claims made on the labels. In addition, the agency cited Topaz for selling an unregistered product designed to kill insects on plants and for failing to maintain and furnish records on this product. EPA also found that Southern made misstatements in its telemarketing messages to customers when selling the pesticides.

In February 2006, after discovering the violations during inspections conducted jointly with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, EPA ordered both companies to stop selling their products. Both companies stopped selling the pesticides identified in EPA’s Orders.

Topaz wrote EPA in April 2006 indicating that it had conducted an investigation of the problems in manufacturing and documentation that were uncovered by EPA and the state and that it corrected the problem by implementing a new quality control program during the production process. As part of the settlement, Topaz will submit to EPA a copy of its new program aimed at ensuring the problems in the manufacturing process do not recur. Southern Chemical is no longer in business.



McGee Industries Fined for Storm Water Violations in Alaska


As part of the EPA ongoing effort to protect Alaska waters, EPA has reached a $6,000 settlement with McGee Industries, Inc. (McGee) for alleged construction storm water violations. The violations occurred at the Bailey’s Furniture Outlet construction site in Anchorage, Alaska. During an EPA inspection of the site in 2005, EPA found numerous violations of EPA’s construction storm water general permit (CGP). The violations include:

  • Improper maintenance of erosion and sediment controls at the site
  • Improper selection of control measures for the maintenance area at the site
  • Various storm water pollution prevention plan (SWPPP) violations


“Improper management of storm water run-off can have a significant impact on water quality," said Kim Ogle, manager of EPA's Permit Compliance Unit in Seattle. "Developers and construction companies need to comply with EPA's regulations or they may face an enforcement action."

The NPDES permit program, a key part of the federal Clean Water Act, controls water pollution by regulating sources that discharge pollutants to waters in the United States.


Blueberry Processor Fined for SPCC and EPCRA Violations


A blueberry processing facility in Machias, Maine, will pay more than $20,000 under the terms of a settlement in which EPA alleged that the company failed to plan adequately for and guard against oil spills, and failed to notify emergency response agencies about hazardous chemicals stored at the facility.

The processor, Maine Wild Blueberry Co., is a subsidiary of a Canadian company called Oxford Frozen Foods. The Downeast facility is located on 30 acres abutting the Machias River, and includes four above-ground oil storage tanks and numerous 55-gallon drums, in which more than 11,000 gallons of oil is stored. An EPA inspection discovered that Maine Wild Blueberry Co. had not prepared and implemented a spill prevention, control, and countermeasure (SPCC) plan for the facility, as required by the federal Clean Water Act.

“Spill prevention and control laws help ensure that a tank failure or spill does not lead to oil being released into rivers, streams, or private wells,” said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA's New England office.

EPA’s inspection also identified that the facility includes a refrigeration system that contains 8,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia. In addition, the facility stored more than 10,000 pounds of oil. Storing this amount of potentially hazardous substances requires that Tier II forms be submitted by March 1st of every year with state and local authorities under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA). The company failed to submit its Tier II forms for the 2005 calendar year. This information can be critical to emergency responders identifying how to protect public health and their own safety, should there be an incident at the facility.

The fine for the SPCC violation is $5,000. The fine for the EPCRA violation is $15,730.


Providence Metallizing Fined $52,700 for Clean Air Act Violations


The Providence Metallizing Company, Inc. (PMC) of Pawtucket, R.I., has paid a fine and will undertake additional environmental projects to settle EPA allegations of Clean Air Act violations. Specifically, the company paid a cash penalty of $52,700, as well as completing a supplemental environmental project worth at least $96,198.

PMC performs spray and dip coating of plastic, metal and glass substrates for various uses such as automobile reflectors, cosmetic packaging, and trophy hardware. The company’s operations involve spray/dip coating operations that emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are components of ground level ozone, or smog.

After an EPA inspection, EPA determined that the company failed to comply with various reporting and work practice requirements. Additionally, EPA claimed that PMC failed to maintain the operating temperature of its thermal oxidizer at or above the minimum temperature established in its permit on five days from Oct. - Dec. 2003. The thermal oxidizer had been necessary for PMC to meet its required emission limits for VOCs. PMC shut down the oxidizer in July 2006 and now complies with its VOC emission limits by eliminating some of its process lines and by using compliant coatings in others.

For its supplemental environmental project, PMC will replace a trichloroethylene-based vapor degreaser at its facility with an aqueous cleaning system. The project should eliminate the use of approximately 7,000 pounds of trichloroethylene per year by PMC’s facility.


EPA Releases PFOA Stewardship Program Baseline Year Summary Report



 This baseline shows the emissions and product content levels that existed before the program began, and includes separate entries for the companies' U.S. and global operations. Progress made toward meeting the program's goals will be measured against this baseline. Companies will submit their first progress reports on Oct. 31, 2007.

On Jan. 25, 2006, EPA invited eight companies to reduce PFOA releases and its presence in products by 95 percent by no later than 2010 and to work toward eliminating these sources of exposure five years after that but no later than 2015. By March 1, 2006, EPA received 100 percent participation from invited companies. The eight participating companies are: Arkema, Asahi, Ciba, Clariant, Daikin, DuPont, 3M/Dyneon and Solvay Solexis.

The companies' reports will outline their progress in terms of company-wide percentage achievements both for U.S. operations and for the company's global business. Companies will also provide EPA with detailed information on their emissions and product content reductions to support their public progress reports. EPA will post new summary reports on the Web shortly after receipt of the progress reports.


EPA Settles Hazardous Waste Violation with Van Can’s Fontana, Calif., Facility


Thanks to a recent settlement between the EPA and Van Can Co. of Fontana, Calif., the company will soon install mechanisms to reduce its hazardous waste generation from its sheet metal cutting and coating operations from 10,000 gallons per year to less than 100 gallons per year.

Under the settlement, Van Can will purchase a new cleaning mechanism for $170,000 as part of a supplemental environmental project and pay a $3,900 fine to resolve federal hazardous waste violations.

Van Can will use the new cleaning mechanism for its coating machines instead of using solvents that result in hazardous waste. This new cleaning mechanism will be used to remove paint residue from the equipment and will reduce Van Can’s hazardous waste generation by 99 percent.

“We are pleased that Van Can has taken responsibility for its violations and encouraged to see the company adopt an innovative approach to resolve this case,” said Jeff Scott, the EPA’s Waste Management Division director for the Pacific Southwest. “This approach will have both immediate and lasting benefits for the environment.”

A valuable tool in the agency’s enforcement program, a supplemental environmental project allows a violator to offset a portion of its fine by investing in a project that will benefit the environment, in this case by preventing pollution from the use of solvents.

In February 2006, inspectors from the EPA found violations under the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, including the storage of hazardous waste without a permit, the failure to close hazardous waste containers, and the failure to prevent releases of hazardous waste.

Van Can Co. promptly corrected the violations found during the inspection. The facility cuts and coats sheet metal used to manufacture cans with enamels or lacquers. Daily cleaning of the coating machine with solvents produces an ignitable hazardous waste.


EPA Rule Will Help States Control Fine Particle Air Pollution


These state plans will lead to improved air quality for millions of Americans.

Under the Clean Air Act, states must develop plans by April 2008 for meeting the 1997 air quality standards for fine particles, or PM2.5. The Clean Air Fine Particle Implementation Rule includes detailed guidance that interprets the Clean Air Act's requirements for these plans.

EPA's clean air strategy includes the introduction of ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel and clean diesel trucks and buses, the Clean Air Nonroad Diesel Rule to reduce pollution from nonroad diesel engines and the Clean Air Interstate Rule to reduce pollution from power plants in the eastern United States. 

Key issues addressed in the rule:

  • Reasonably available control measures (RACM) and reasonably available control technology (RACT) – For each nonattainment area, the Clean Air Act requires the state to demonstrate that it has adopted all reasonably available control measures, considering economic and technical feasibility and other factors, that are needed to show that the area will attain the fine particle standards as expeditiously as practicable. This rule sets forth guidelines for making RACM and RACT determinations. 
  • Attainment demonstrations and modeling – This final rule provides guidance on the required elements of an attainment demonstration, the recommended analytical process to follow to identify the most expeditious attainment date for an area, and guidance on air quality modeling.
  • Policies on PM2.5 and precursors – Five main types of pollutants contribute to fine particle concentrations: direct PM2.5 emissions, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, ammonia, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). However, the effect of reducing emissions of each of these pollutants varies by area, depending on the fine particle composition, emission levels, and other area-specific factors. For this reason, the final rule establishes the following policies for evaluating and controlling sources of these emissions:
    • PM2.5 direct emissions (including organic carbon, elemental carbon and crustal material) must be evaluated for emission reduction measures in all nonattainment areas.
    • Sulfur dioxide must be evaluated for emission reduction measures in all nonattainment areas.
    • Nitrogen oxides (NOx) must be evaluated for emission reduction measures in each area unless the state and EPA demonstrate that NOx is not a significant contributor to PM2.5 concentrations in a specific area.
    • VOCs are not required to be evaluated for emission reduction measures in each area unless the state or EPA demonstrates that VOCs significantly contribute to PM2.5 concentrations in a specific area.
    • Ammonia is not required to be evaluated for emission reduction measures in each area unless the state or EPA demonstrates that ammonia significantly contributes to PM2.5 concentrations in a specific area.
    • The final rule provides guidance on the types of analyses that may be included in a technical demonstration to reverse any of the presumptive precursor policies described above.


Thermal Circuits, Inc. Fined $18,290 for Improper Storage of Hazardous Waste and Air Quality Violations


Thermal Circuits Inc., has agreed to an $18,290 penalty after inspections last fall by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) found numerous hazardous waste management and air quality violations.

The company is registered as a large quantity generator of hazardous waste, yet failed to comply with regulatory requirements by:

  • Providing insufficient information on several 55-gallon drums regarding the contents and start dates of accumulation
  • Failing to delineate the accumulation area and provide proper aisle spacing
  • Storing “raw” product materials that were incorrectly labeled "hazardous waste"
  • Improperly storing ignitable rags that are used in cleaning
  • Failing to submit a plan application for their emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOC) and hazardous air pollutants (HAPs)

"The management of hazardous waste is a serious public safety issue and it's a responsibility that MassDEP works to make sure is not taken lightly," said Richard Chalpin, director of the MassDEP's Northeast Regional Office in Wilmington. "A few infractions often lead to others, and the result is, the facility loses control over how its hazards are managed, and this can lead to accidents that have devastating consequences."

The company has taken steps to bring the facility back into compliance, and MassDEP has agreed to suspend $5,750 of the penalty pending full compliance with all terms of the order after one year.


MnDOT and Granite/McCrossan Pay $75,000 Penalty for Stormwater Violations


The Minnesota Department of Transportation, Metro Division (MnDOT) and its construction contractor, Granite/McCrossan, agreed to share responsibility for a $75,000 penalty resulting from stormwater violations on a road reconstruction project between Minnetonka and Eden Prairie, Minn.

The alleged violations took place in 2005 and 2006 on an eight-mile stretch of highway between Hwy. 5 and Interstate 394. The 297-acre project included adding a third lane for traffic in both directions, the replacement of 14 bridges, and the reconstruction of two major freeway interchanges.

On July 26, 2004, before construction began, MnDOT and Granite/McCrossan applied for a construction stormwater permit and prepared a plan for how they intended to protect nearby water bodies from dirty stormwater. Among other strategies, the plan called for the installation of silt fences and grass cover on dirt slopes to prevent erosion. And while this plan was implemented rigorously, the parties failed to revise the plan when it became clear that certain strategies were not working.

The March 13, 2007 agreement with MnDOT and Granite/McCrossan cites these parties' failure to modify their stormwater pollution prevention plan, failure to use more aggressive strategies to stabilize dirt slopes, failure to remove construction-related sediment from a wetland, and failure to maintain temporary or permanent grass cover on steep dirt slopes.

These serious violations caused damage to three local water bodies: Minnehaha Creek, Lake Minnetoga, and a Department of Natural Resources-protected wetland. Minnehaha Creek is included on the state's list of impaired waters.

MPCA inspectors observed muddy water flowing from the construction project into Lake Minnetoga and Minnehaha Creek. At a minimum, this sediment created the potential for significant adverse impacts to the wetland, including degradation of wildlife habitat.

Before the agreement was signed, MnDOT and Granite/McCrossan corrected the violations of their stormwater permit. The parties agreed to share the responsibility for the $75,000 penalty, and it has since been paid in full.

Sediment and other pollutants associated with stormwater can degrade the quality of streams, lakes and rivers. 

Levying penalties and fines is one of the MPCA's many tools used to encourage compliance with environmental laws. When calculating penalties, the MPCA takes into account how seriously the violation damaged the environment, whether the violation was a first-time offense, how promptly the parties reported the violation to appropriate authorities, and how quickly the responsible parties addressed the violations. It also attempts to recover the calculated economic benefit gained by failure to comply with environmental laws in a timely manner.


Esco Turbine Technologies Fined for Hazardous Waste Violations


Esco Turbine Technologies-Cleveland, Inc., has agreed to pay Ohio EPA a $20,240 penalty to settle hazardous waste violations at its facility located at 34000 Lakeland Boulevard in Eastlake. The company has corrected the violations and now operates in compliance with Ohio's hazardous waste laws.

During a 2006 facility inspection, an Ohio EPA inspector found Esco violated Ohio's hazardous waste laws by storing a container of hazardous waste beyond the 90-day limit without a permit. Other documented violations included failing to:

  • Evaluate waste to determine if it was hazardous waste
  • Identify all hazardous waste generated and sent off-site in the annual hazardous waste report
  • Inspect emergency equipment and hazardous waste containers
  • Complete a personnel training program for handling hazardous waste


Esco's casting business produces blades and vanes for jet and industrial gas engines. The manufacturing process generates hazardous wastes including hydrochloric acid, trichloroethylene, and washer solvent.


Epsilon Products to Pay $55,430 for Air Quality Permit Violations


The Pennsylvania DEP recently announced that Epsilon Products Company will pay $55,430 in civil penalties for permit violations at its propylene processing plant in Marcus Hook Borough, Delaware County.

“Epsilon’s permit requires that equipment associated with potential air pollution sources, including valves, be monitored regularly to detect leaks,” DEP Southeast Regional Director Joseph A. Feola said. “We found that this had not been done for more than 500 valves at two Epsilon buildings.”

The facility-wide air quality permit held by Epsilon requires regular inspection. Without such leak detection, possible emissions into the atmosphere cannot be discovered and addressed. As a result of these violations, DEP issued a notice of violation to the company in June 2006.

The violations were discovered during a review of valve-monitoring data, including leak measurements and repair information, in a report that DEP requested after a February 2006 violation notice. The report, received from Epsilon last April, revealed that the company had not monitored 352 gas/vapor and light liquid valves in Plant 1 and 199 such valves in Plant 2.

DEP issued violation notices to Epsilon in 2004 and 2006 for inadequate reporting and calculation of emissions as well as exceeding emission limits.

Epsilon operates the plant on Post Road in Marcus Hook. Both propylene and ethylene gas used at Epsilon is supplied via pipeline from the Sunoco Marcus Hook Refinery.

Under terms of the March 14, 2007, agreement, Epsilon will pay, within 15 days, $55,430 to the commonwealth’s Clean Air Fund, which finances air quality improvements using fees and penalties collected by the state.


Chemical Clean-out Toolkit for Schools


The EPA's Web-based tool kit helps schools start chemical management programs that will improve their chemical management practices by:

  • Removing inappropriate, outdated, unknown and unnecessary chemicals from schools
  • Preventing future chemical mismanagement issues in schools through training, curriculum and policy change, and long-term management solutions
  • Raising awareness of chemical issues in schools and promoting sustainable solutions


Department of Energy Recognizes Top ENERGY STAR® Partners



Organizations recognized have achieved major energy savings and/or are helping consumers save money while reducing energy needs and carbon emissions. “Increasing energy efficiency is a national priority and the ENERGY STAR program helps provide consumers with real and significant energy-savings options,” Secretary of Energy Samuel W. Bodman said. “We’re proud of our ENERGY STAR partners and we look forward to more of the private sector joining in its continued success.”

Over the past year, ENERGY STAR, with industry partners, it has helped consumers make smart energy choices, saving more than $14 billion on their electric bills; equal to the amount of energy used by 70 power plants and displacing greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to more than 25 million vehicles. While saving energy, ENERGY STAR products maintain or surpass quality standards and offer improved features and personal comfort.

ENERGY STAR was formed in 1992 as a voluntary, market-based partnership to reduce air pollution through increased energy efficiency. DOE, in partnership with EPA, works to offer businesses and consumers energy-efficient solutions to save energy and money while also helping to protect our environment for future generations. More than 9,000 organizations share this vision and have joined ENERGY STAR as partners committed to improving the energy efficiency of products, homes and businesses each year forward.

DOE recognized seven ENERGY STAR award winners in the following categories:

  • Bosch Home Appliances: Excellence in ENERGY STAR Promotion – Appliances
  • GE Consumer & Industrial: Sustained Excellence Award – Appliances & Lighting Manufacturer
  • Gorell Enterprises, Inc.: Sustained Excellence Award – Windows, Doors, and Skylights
  • Osram Sylvania: Sustained Excellence Award – Product Manufacturer
  • Pella Corporation: Partner of the Year – Window Manufacturer
  • Precision Entry, Inc.: Partner of the Year – Door Manufacturer
  • Whirlpool Corporation: Sustained Excellence Award – Appliance Manufacturer



EPEC Polymers Agrees to $23.4 Million Superfund Settlement


EPEC Polymers Inc., headquartered in Houston, has reached a settlement worth an estimated $23.4 million regarding the Petro-Chemical Systems Inc. Superfund Site in Liberty County, Texas, the Justice Department and the EPA announced recently.

The company will perform investigation and cleanup work estimated to cost $13.4 million at as part of a settlement lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. In addition, EPEC will reimburse EPA for $6.9 million of its past costs and approximately $3.1 million for costs incurred after July 31, 2004. A portion of the payments will be used to fund EPA's oversight of cleanup activity at the site, which is also known as the “Turtle Bayou Site.” The balance will be paid into the Superfund, a revolving fund established by Congress and used to pay for cleanups at such sites.

The Justice Department sued EPEC in 2002 to secure cleanup work and recover costs on behalf of EPA under the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act. EPEC’s corporate predecessor, Tenneco Chemicals, disposed of wastes at the site that were generated from its vinyl chloride monomer facility in Pasadena, Texas. The United States had filed an earlier lawsuit in 1994 in connection with the same site against other parties including Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO) and ARCO Chemical Company (ACC). That earlier suit was resolved in 1998 by a settlement that required those companies to perform substantial cleanup work. The agreement reached with EPEC requires the cleanup of virtually all the remaining contamination at the site.

“Vigorous enforcement of the Superfund program should secure the performance of work by responsible parties and reimbursement of cleanup costs expended by the EPA. That is exactly what this settlement accomplishes,” said Matthew J. McKeown, acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Environmental and Natural Resources Division. “This agreement takes an important step towards completing the cleanup of this longstanding Superfund site.”

"EPA vigorously pursues those that contaminate our environment," said Granta Nakayama, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. "This shows that EPA will make sure that the polluter pays for Superfund site cleanups."

"The Environmental Protection Agency will continue to vigorously enforce our nation's environmental laws," said EPA Regional Administrator Richard E. Greene. "Our enforcement staff works very closely and effectively with the Department of Justice to ensure a cleaner and healthier environment."

The site is located approximately 15 miles southeast of the city of Liberty and sixty-five miles northeast of Houston. Land use in the area near the Turtle Bayou Site is divided among crop-land, pasture, range, forest, and small rural communities. In the late 1960s, the past owners of the Turtle Bayou Site, Donald R. Lang and Wallis W. Smith, allowed waste transport companies to use the Turtle Bayou Site for illegal disposal of wastes until about 1979.

EPA and the state of Texas’ response actions at the site included cleanup of contamination from 1987 until 1988 along the then unpaved Frontier Park Road which runs through the site. This work included excavation and on-site containment of 5900 cubic yards of highly contaminated soil. In 1998, EPA selected cleanup remedies for the other areas of known contamination at the site. Some of those remedies were performed by ARCO and ACC under the 1998 consent decree. The major components of the remedy for contaminated soil were soil vapor extraction, catalytic thermal destruction of the extracted vapor, and groundwater sparging. When all work is completed and costs fully reimbursed, the total expenditures for the Turtle Bayou Site are likely to exceed $59 million.


Attorney General Urges Major Retailers to Collect Spent Florescent Light Bulbs


Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal is urging major retailers to establish collection programs for spent, energy-saving compact florescent light bulbs because they contain small amounts of mercury and should not be discarded in regular trash.

Blumenthal visited the IKEA in New Haven, which already has such a program. The store has disposal bins for spent florescent bulbs and tubes at its exit. The lights are taken to a company that extracts and recycles the mercury, keeping it out of the atmosphere.

"Stores should follow IKEA's shining model in safer mercury disposal – a collection depot for spent light bulbs," Blumenthal said. "Mercury can be deadly and can be safely secured and contained through this system. IKEA sets a bright example that I urge other major retailers to follow by instituting their own florescent light bulb disposal programs. I recently wrote Wal-Mart, Target, Lowe's, and Home Depot asking them to adopt similar systems disposing of florescent bulbs.

"IKEA's system is a win-win, both pro-environment and pro-energy efficiency. Valid concerns about mercury - a deadly neurotoxin especially dangerous to children and pregnant women - must not dim the promise of energy efficient compact florescent lighting. These light bulbs save significant electricity, slashing greenhouse gas and other pollution, as well as our dependence on foreign oil. Using such bulbs should be strongly encouraged and assuring their proper disposal is a vital to that effort," Blumenthal added.

"Our goal at IKEA is to reduce waste and be environmentally responsible," IKEA New Haven store manager Gail Franc said. "Energy-saving light bulbs use 75% less energy and last 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs. In keeping with our corporate guidelines on social and environmental responsibility, IKEA has been selling and responsibly recycling energy-saving light bulbs for many years. As part of the IKEA commitment to the environment and our community, we want to get the message out: 'Don't throw out your light bulbs. Bring them in!'"


Gutting of Endangered Species Act Exposed by Environmental Group



Many of the changes are reactions to policies and practices established as a result of litigation filed by environmental organizations including Earthjustice.

A major change would make it more difficult for a species to gain protection by scaling back the "foreseeable future" timeframe in which to consider whether a species is likely to become extinct. Instead of looking far enough ahead to be able to reasonably determine whether a species could be heading for extinction, the new regulations would drastically shorten the timeframe to either 20 years or 10 generations at the agency's discretion.

The administration reportedly had expected to reveal the new regulations in a few weeks. The draft regulations must be published in the Federal Register for public comment before they can become final, which is likely to be at least a year off.

U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, released the following statement: “I will vigorously oppose any weakening of the Endangered Species Act, which has saved the American bald eagle, and which is now playing a role in saving the polar bear.”


$10,000 Fine for Illegal Dumping of Industrial Waste into Storm Drain


The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) penalized Sampson Trucking $10,000 for the illegal dumping of hazardous waste into a storm drain near Upton and Webster Streets in Peabody, Mass. Sampson Trucking admitted that one of its employees dumped an undetermined amount of kerosene and "tack coat," an asphalt emulsion that the company was using in the repair of a driveway surface.

MassDEP's Emergency Response Division and the MassDEP Environmental Strike Force responded on Nov. 6, 2006 to a reported oil sheen on the North River. The sheen was subsequently traced to the source by following a trail of spillage that led from the storm drain to the work site. Sampson accepted responsibility and hired an environmental cleanup contractor to contain and fully remediate the spill.

"Any company that uses hazardous waste and other regulated materials has a legal obligation to protect the environment by managing, transporting, and disposing of such materials in accordance with the law," said Pamela Talbot of MassDEP's Environmental Strike Force. "Reckless disposal of hazardous waste, even in incrementally small amounts, can have an adverse impact on water resources and other sensitive environmental receptors. Persons who are caught engaging in illegal disposal activities will face the consequences."

Sampson Trucking also agreed to train and supervise its employees in order to prevent a recurrence. MassDEP will suspend $4,000 of the penalty pending Sampson's full compliance with the terms of the order.


Federal Court Blocks Attempt to Eliminate Wildlife Standards for National Forests


A federal judge rejected the Forest Service's effort to remove key environmental protections from the rules governing the 191-million-acre National Forest System.

The ruling, by U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton, invalidates regulations issued in 2005 that sought to overhaul the land-management planning process for National Forests by eliminating mandatory protections for wildlife and clean water and removing public participation in the process. Among the measures discarded was a key regulatory guarantee of wildlife viability in the National Forests that had been in place since the Reagan administration.

The ruling found that administration officials had bypassed legally required environmental reviews and endangered species protections in creating a new management system for the National Forests that eliminated enforceable environmental protections from the forest planning process. Judge Hamilton also ruled that the administration had sprung its final forest planning rules on the public without sufficient notice of the "paradigm shift" that the rules accomplished.

The judge's ruling prohibits the government from "implementation and utilization" of the new forest planning rules.

The National Forest Management Act requires the Forest Service to protect wildlife on the national forests and allow citizens to participate in management decisions. The court-rejected rules would have invalidated the 1982 standards for national forest management that protected species and required public comment on national forest timber plans.

Earthjustice, representing Defenders of Wildlife, The Wilderness Society, the Sierra Club and Vermont Natural Resources Council, filed a legal challenge to the rule changes in October 2004.

Pete Frost from the Western Environmental Law Center represented Citizens for Better Forestry in a similar case that also was decided in the ruling. The State of California also filed a lawsuit against the rule changes.


Fire-Plagued Company Pays $93,250 for Hazardous Waste Violations


A New Jersey manufacturer of hair-care products has agreed to pay $93,250 to settle hazardous waste violations stemming from a series of fires likely sparked by improperly stored chemicals, DEP Commissioner Lisa P. Jackson announced last week.

Before finalizing the settlement, the DEP required Hair Systems Inc. to improve waste handling procedures at its facility in Englishtown Borough, Monmouth County, and to properly train employees to help prevent fires in the future.

"The action we've taken rectifies the risky handling and storage of chemicals that, we believe, caused more than a dozen fires at this facility in recent years," Commissioner Jackson said. "Hair Systems should now be well on its way to running a safer, cleaner operation."

Hair Systems uses potassium persulfate and sodium persulfate in the manufacture of bleaches, dyes, perm kits, and other reactive hair-care products.

The DEP's environmental inspectors and members of the state Division of Criminal Justice's Environmental Crimes Unit, acting on information from an Englishtown fire official and the Monmouth County Health Department, executed a search warrant at the facility in January 2006.

Environmental lawmen found various violations of hazardous waste regulations, including chemicals being stored near incompatible materials and numerous containers of hazardous chemicals left open and unmarked.

The Division of Criminal Justice, after conducting an investigation with the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office, concluded there was no basis for criminal prosecution of Hair Systems Inc. However, as part of a settlement agreement with the Division of Criminal Justice, the company early this year agreed to take steps to reduce the number of fires at the facility. Those measures included hiring an environmental consultant and retaining an engineer to fully assess climate-control issues within the facility. Further, the company agreed to pay $25,000 to Englishtown Fire Company, which had responded repeatedly to fires at Hair Systems, for the purchase of new equipment.

DEP environmental inspectors had cited the facility for failing to mark containers and tanks as hazardous waste, ensure employee familiarity with proper waste handling and emergency procedures, use storage containers lined with materials that do not react with hazardous waste, and properly close all stored hazardous waste containers.

Violations also included the facility's failure to inspect container storage areas and its failure to minimize the possibility of fire, explosion, or other event that might release hazardous waste and threaten public health or the environment.


Pendu Manufacturing Fined for Hazardous Waste Violations


The Pennsylvania DEP fined Pendu Manufacturing Inc. of Tuscarora Township, Bradford County, $8,173 for hazardous waste management violations discovered last fall at the company’s manufacturing plant.

“DEP discovered multiple hazardous waste violations at Pendu Manufacturing last fall that reflected inadequate and illegal management of waste,” Yowell said. “Proper handling, storage, and disposal of hazardous waste is essential to protect the safety of workers and the public, and to prevent contamination of the environment.”

A plant inspection conducted by DEP last November uncovered numerous violations of the Pennsylvania Solid Waste Management Act that included not labeling drums of hazardous waste; failing to secure open buckets of hazardous waste; and improper dating, storage and disposal of hazardous and universal wastes. Specifically, DEP inspectors noted the improper storage and handling of paint-related wastes inside the facility, and the illegal disposal of fluorescent light bulbs.

Follow-up communications and inspections conducted by DEP have confirmed that the company has put measures in place to ensure that the problems do not recur.

Trivia Question of the Week

Trucks that qualify for EPA’s SmartWay program can save their operators how much money in reduced fuel costs per year?

a. $1,500
b. $5,100
c. $11,000
d. $ 1 million