EPA Seeks $171,050 From Plymouth State University, Plymouth, NH for Hazardous Waste Violations

March 07, 2005

EPA has proposed a $171,050 penalty against Plymouth State University, in Plymouth, NH for violations of hazardous waste laws. The proposed penalty stems from violations found during an EPA inspection at the college's campus in June 2003.

According to the complaint, the university violated both state and federal hazardous waste requirements. Specifically, EPA claims that the University failed to:

  • make hazardous waste determinations
  • properly store hazardous waste
  • maintain spill and fire control equipment
  • post "no smoking" signs
  • post emergency telephone numbers and locations of emergency equipment
  • keep hazardous waste containers closed
  • mark hazardous waste containers with accumulation dates and other important information
  • conduct inspections of hazardous waste storage areas.

"Plymouth State failed to follow basic hazardous waste regulations and put its students and employees at risk," said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA's New England Office. "The public and the environment will be safer when all schools are in compliance with our nation's environmental laws." This action is the latest of numerous enforcement actions EPA's New England Office has filed against colleges and universities as part of its College and University Initiative. Launched in 1999, the initiative has also included enforcement actions against Boston University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, as well as other colleges and universities in the region.

The initiative was launched after EPA inspectors noticed generally poor compliance during their visits to universities, which typically have large numbers of laboratories and other operations generating a large array of toxic chemicals. In addition to enforcement activities, the initiative includes extensive compliance assistance, including workshops geared for university environmental compliance personnel and a university compliance web page.

EPA New England is also conducting a College and University Audit Initiative, in which colleges and universities voluntarily disclose and promptly correct violations before an EPA inspection occurs. By making such disclosures, participants may become eligible for significant penalty reductions or even penalty elimination. More than 175 university facilities in New England are participating in this program and more than 125 self-disclosures have been received and reviewed by EPA, to date. Plymouth State University has not participated in this project.

DOT Reinserts Listings on Hazardous Materials Table

For a list of proper shipping names that were removed and then reinserted back onto the hazardous materials table, click here.

National Corrective Action Conference: May 3-4, 2005

The next National Corrective Action Conference is scheduled to take place in Denver, CO, May 3-4, 2005. The theme of this year's conference is: "Implementing the 2020 Corrective Action Initiative." The conference web site is ready to take your registration, which is free. The conference will cover such topics as: meeting national program goals, major policy issues and guidance documents, and implementation of the 2020 initiative. The conference will also provide a forum for EPA, state and community leaders, as well as industry representatives and environmental consulting professionals to have a frank discussion on corrective action issues.

Maryland Issues Emergency Regulations for MTBE

MarylandÆs Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review (AELR) unanimously approved MDEÆs emergency regulations to prevent MTBE (methyl tertiary butyl ether) and other petroleum products from reaching groundwater supplies. The emergency regulations apply to regulated gasoline underground tanks in "high-risk groundwater use areas," which are defined as areas in 11 designated counties where drinking water is supplied by individual wells. Approximately 100 to 150 existing tank systems, mostly gasoline service stations, will be affected in five targeted counties: Baltimore, Carroll, Cecil, Frederick, and Harford. The Department has determined that individual wells in these five counties are at the highest risk from MTBE contamination.

The regulations will remain active for six months. The MDE will publish the regulations in the Maryland Register within the next 30 days and seek to adopt them under the normal regulatory process, which includes a public hearing and comment period. The emergency regulations:

  • Require installation of double-walled pipes on all new regulated motor fuel underground storage systems and built-in sensors to warn of leaks;
  • Require increased groundwater sampling, mandate regular testing of tanks and fittings (starting 30 days after the effective date); and
  • Define steps that gas station owners and others must take when underground storage systems are suspected of contaminating groundwater.

An unofficial copy of the emergency regulations is available.

Draft National Whole Effluent Toxicity Guidance - Comment Deadline March 31

EPA released its draft National Whole Effluent Toxicity Implementation Guidance for public review and comment for 60 days. In our last issue, we gave a February deadline for comments. Comments may be submitted through March 31, 2005 in a variety of forms (paper, electronic, etc.) to the EPA Docket Center, Docket ID # OW-2004-0037. For more information on submitting comments, visit www.epa.gov/edocket.

City to Pay Fine for Failure to Report Release

EPA Region 5 recently settled an administrative case involving hazardous chemical release reporting violations with the city of Warren, Mich. The city will pay an $8,766 fine and spend $27,900 on safety upgrades that will reduce threats to public health.

EPA alleged that on June 25, 2003, at 7:15 p.m., WarrenÆs wastewater treatment plant, at 32360 Warkop Ave., released 336 pounds of gaseous chlorine but failed to promptly notify the National Response Center and the Michigan Emergency Response Commission. This volume is 33 times the 10-pound threshold requiring official notification.

In settling the case, the city agreed to pay a civil penalty of $8,766 and to revise certain emergency reporting procedures. In addition, the wastewater treatment plant will spend about $27,900 to install new electronic automatic valve closure systems for their chlorine cylinders used for water treatment.

Chlorine reacts explosively with many common chemicals. Exposure at high concentrations causes headaches, nausea, choking and burns to the respiratory system and eyes.

Clarkson University to Pay $45K for RCRA Violations

Clarkson University in Potsdam, New York, has agreed to pay a $45,000 penalty and comply with hazardous waste management regulations to settle a complaint brought by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). As part of EPA's ongoing Colleges and Universities Initiative to protect the health of those working at and attending institutions of higher learning, the Agency took action against Clarkson for past violations of federal and state laws that provide for the safe handling and storage of hazardous wastes. Clarkson also entered into a separate agreement with EPA to conduct self audits of its campus facilities and operations. The self audit agreement, a major incentive of the initiative, covers all major federal environmental programs.

"Clarkson not only saw that EPA is inspecting facilities to enforce the law, it also realized the advantage of a voluntary self audit agreement with EPA," said EPA Acting Regional Administrator Kathleen Callahan. "Clarkson must pay a penalty, but others can avoid this by volunteering for self audits before an EPA inspection."

In addition to paying the $45,000 penalty, Clarkson has agreed to follow hazardous waste regulations. The university will put practices into place to determine if the wastes it generates are hazardous and comply with requirements to properly store incompatible wastes and regulations that allow for the short-term accumulation of hazardous waste without a permit. Clarkson also volunteered to hold a three-hour environmental management seminar at its Potsdam campus for the administrative staff of high schools in St. Lawrence, Franklin, and Jefferson Counties that will help the schools comply with environmental laws and regulations.

EPA established its Colleges and Universities Initiative in 1999 because it found that many such institutions were not aware of their responsibilities under various environmental laws. As part of the initiative, EPA sent letters to colleges and universities in New Jersey, New York, and Puerto Rico; held free workshops to help colleges and universities comply; set up a web site that provides information about their duties under the law; and warned them that EPA inspections of their facilities with the risk of financial penalties were imminent. EPA encouraged the institutions to avail themselves of the agency's Voluntary Audit Policy through which institutions can investigate and disclose violations to the agency and, if the necessary conditions are met, receive a partial or complete reduction in financial penalties.

EPA continues to encourage colleges and universities to participate in the Colleges and Universities Initiative. To date, 93 colleges and universities in New York, New Jersey and Puerto Rico have come forward to disclose more than one thousand violations to EPA. Most of them have been granted a 100% waiver of potential penalties totaling more than $10 million.

EPA has inspected 48 colleges and universities and has issued administrative complaints with penalties totaling more than $2.1 million over the past four years against 14 colleges and universities in New Jersey and New York and Puerto Rico. The Colleges and Universities Initiative is an ongoing program with additional investigations anticipated.

EPA Considers Contaminants for Possible Future Drinking Water Regulations

EPA is researching and evaluating a list of 51 unregulated, new or emerging drinking water contaminants for possible regulation. The Contaminant Candidate List (CCL) process was established by the 1996 Amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) as a tracking and priority-setting mechanism to determine if new regulations are needed to protect drinking water safety.

Unregulated contaminants that are known or anticipated to occur in drinking water comprise the list. The SDWA requires EPA to conduct extensive research into the occurrence and health effects of the listed contaminants before issuing new regulations or standards. With today's action, EPA is releasing the second CCL - which carries over a number of contaminants from the first CCL - and announcing plans to expand and strengthen the contaminant candidate listing process.

The SDWA directs EPA to periodically publish a list of contaminants that "at the time of publication, are not subject to any proposed or promulgated national primary drinking water regulation, which are known or anticipated to occur in public water systems, and which may require regulation. In July 2003, EPA removed contaminants from the first CCL after the Agency concluded that sufficient data and information was available to determine not to regulate nine contaminants.

EPA is publishing both a final CCL and an update on the Agency's work to improve the CCL selection process. EPA is reviewing more contaminants for inclusion on the third CCL and is working to implement a more transparent system for selecting contaminants. EPA's new approach will produce a more comprehensive CCL because the process will address a wider range of information and screen contaminants more systematically, as was recommended by the National Academy of Sciences and the National Drinking Water Advisory Council.

EPAÆs One Cleanup Program

EPA is leading an initiative in response to issues raised by the regulated community, citizens impacted by contaminated properties, and other governmental agencies. Its goal is to improve the coordination, speed, and effectiveness of cleanups at the nation's contaminated sites. The One Cleanup Program is EPA's vision for how different cleanup programs at all levels of government can work together to meet that goal - and ensure that resources, activities, and results are effectively coordinated and communicated to the public. For details, see the One Cleanup Program Website.

What Happens to Your Old Tires?

The next time you get your tires changed, ask your dealer what they plan to do with your old tires. According to the Ohio EPA, Larry Anderson hauled more than 2,400 scrap tires from various garages and tire retailers in Ohio. There were just a few glitches with administration of AndersonÆs scrap tire removal business. He was unlicensed; he hired destitute individuals to rent the U-Hauls into which the tires were loaded; he either failed to remove the tires from the trucks or he illegally dumped them; and, he neglected to return the trucks to U-Haul. To add insult to injury, U-Haul got stuck paying for the disposal of the tires Anderson left in their trucks.

Ohio EPAÆs Office of Special Investigations (OSI) and the Ohio Attorney GeneralÆs Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation (BCI) unraveled this saga of deception and greed. It all began when Anderson, of Cleveland, approached a woman and asked her to accompany him and another man to a U-Haul rental office in the area to rent a truck. She said he told her he was going to use it to help someone move their belongings.

Anderson then used the truck to travel to scrap tire generators who paid $1 per tire (licensed scrap tire transporters usually charge $2 per tire) to have approximately 250 scrap tires removed. Instead of disposing of the tires, U-Haul stated that the tires and vehicle were abandoned on a city street. Ohio EPA said that, this scene, more or less, was replayed eight times throughout the next 13 months and included incidents involving AndersonÆs cousin and his own son. Most often, Anderson approached homeless or out-of-work people, and, after determining that they had a driverÆs license, offered to pay them $20 or $30 to rent a truck in their name. Tires were retrieved, fees were collected and, other than twice when they were illegally dumped, the tires remained in the abandoned moving vans or were returned, along with the vans, to U-Haul.

During AndersonÆs 13-month tire-dumping spree, U-Haul worked with Cleveland City Police to try to apprehend him. Oddly enough, a U-Haul employee happened to spot one of the trucks that the company had reported as stolen. It was parked on a city street and two men were loading tires into it. When the police arrived, Anderson and his son were arrested. Anderson was charged and convicted of receiving stolen property for being in possession of the U-Haul truck. Following his conviction, Ohio EPAÆs OSI and the Attorney GeneralÆs Office BCI continued their investigation. This resulted in Anderson being charged, tried and convicted of four counts of illegal transportation of scrap tires and one count of open dumping. Anderson was sentenced to two years in prison, three years probation and ordered to pay court costs for the environmental crimes he committed.

During the course of the investigation, Anderson gave the names of several tire generators who had paid him to haul scrap tires with knowledge that what he was doing was illegal. By this time OSI and BCI had conducted a covert operation on the scrap tire generators Anderson identified and devised a plan to go after them. In early December 2003, OSI and BCI conducted an undercover operation on several of the scrap tire generators. This investigation resulted in various convictions.

Scrap tire generator Sam Wormsley, Jr. plead guilty to attempted open dumping and his son, Sam Wormsley III plead guilty to attempted open dumping, illegal transportation of scrap tires and failure to provide shipping information. Wormsley, Jr. was sentenced to serve 30 days home incarceration, pay $1,500 in restitution and was fined $1,000. Wormsley III was sentenced to 90 days in jail (suspended), had to pay $1,500 in restitution, was fined $3,000 and required to complete 200 hours of community service.

Draft 2006 Integrated Report Guidance Available for Public Comment

EPA is seeking public comment on the Draft 2006 Integrated Report Guidance. This draft guidance to States and Territories is for developing their biennial Integrated Reports (IR) to implement our vision of one report per State/Territory, which integrates reporting of data under section 305(b) and with reporting of impaired waters under section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act. Each IR will report on the water quality standards attainment status of all waters, document the availability of data and information for each water, track trends in water quality conditions, and provide information to managers in setting priorities for future actions to protect and restore the health of our NationÆs water resources. Copies of the Draft IR Guidance as well as fact sheets are posted on EPA's Web site. For more information contact Mike Haire at haire.michael@epa.gov or 202-566-1224.