Martex Cited for Failure to Protect Workers at Two Puerto Rican Farms

February 14, 2005

EPA has filed a complaint against Martex Farms for violating the worker protection provisions of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).

Martex owns numerous large commercial farms covering thousands of acres in Puerto Rico and has over 300 employees. The company received several Notices of Warning in 2003 for worker protection violations at its farms. It was again inspected by the Puerto Rico Department of Agriculture and EPA inspectors in April 2004 as part of a large worker protection enforcement initiative in Puerto Rico.

Violations found during this inspection included failure to post specific information regarding what kinds of pesticides are being applied where and when and failure to provide adequate decontamination supplies and protective equipment for Martex employees.

The EPA has filed a 338-count complaint against Martex for violating FIFRA's worker protection and safety requirements at its farms in Juaca and Coto Laurel, and is seeking over $400,000 in civil penalties.

Worker protection standards are designed to reduce poisoning and injuries among agricultural workers and pesticide handlers. They regulate pesticide use and require that workers and pesticide handlers be given appropriate training, equipment and information. Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that chemical workers suffer from high rates of illnesses commonly associated with chemical use. Tens of thousands of such illnesses are reported each year. Workers may be injured from direct spray, drift or residue left by pesticides applications; handlers face additional risks from spills, splashes, inhalation and inadequate protective equipment.

Worker protection regulations protect the more than 3.5 million people who work with pesticides at over 500,000 workplaces. Among other requirements, agricultural employers are required to restrict entry to treated areas, provide notification of pesticide applications, post specific information regarding what kinds of pesticides are being applied where and when, assure that employees have received safety training, post safety information; provide decontamination supplies, and provide access to emergency assistance when needed.

NJ DEP Fines Scrap Yard for Storm Water Violations

DEP Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell announced that Coach Auto Parts was fined $65,000 for improperly storing automotive parts that can pollute soil, groundwater and surface water.

"After numerous attempts to compel the scrap yard to comply with DEP orders, the Department was left with no recourse other than the imposition of this $65,000 penalty," said Commissioner Campbell. "DEP will vigilantly protect New JerseyÆs water resources and prosecute those who expose our water to hazardous substances found in auto parts."

During a May 23, 2003 inspection, DEP staff found that Coach Auto Parts improperly stored automotive materials including engine blocks, transmissions, batteries and gasoline tanks outdoors without taking required steps to prevent these items from leaking into the ground. Coach Auto Parts also failed to submit to DEP annual self-inspection compliance certification.

DEP required Coach Auto Parts to properly store its automotive materials within sixty days and issued a compliance evaluation to encourage the facility to comply with the terms of its Storm Water Discharge permit. However, subsequent inspections in September 2003 and January and February 2004 revealed that the facility continued to improperly store automotive fluids and drained automotive fluid directly from vehicles onto the ground. This places storm water at risk by allowing pollutants found in automotive fluid to contaminate the soil and water beneath the vehicles. Coach Auto Parts has been evicted from the property and is no longer operating.

EPA National Electronics Meeting

EPA is convening a meeting on March 1 and 2, 2005 to identify and initiate collaborative and scalable solutions that will contribute to a system for electronics recycling across the country. Participants in EPA's National Electronics Meeting will: 1) be updated on the challenges and opportunities encountered in nationwide electronics management programs and systems, public-private voluntary projects, and legislative initiatives; 2) confirm a collective commitment to a longer-term system for the management of used electronics across the country; 3) create action plans for multiple and diverse projects for cross-industry and government collaboration that can move from conceptualization towards broad acceptance and implementation (e.g., National Center for Electronics Recycling, Third Party Organization, Host for Safe Management Guidelines, National Database); and 4) contribute to the development of a list of science/research questions that could be addressed by EPA's Office of Research and Development and/or a collection of other research organizations.

EPA is asking participants to commit to two full days of working sessions so that we can develop an action plan to foster greener design and more comprehensive recycling. Unlike a conference where attendees listen to a series of presentations, at this meeting, EPA will participate in working sessions developed by a multi-stakeholder planning team of representatives from industry, retailers, government, non-profits, and recyclers. The working sessions are geared to move electronics recycling from concept to implementation. If you cannot participate for the full two days, you may be able to join this meeting as an observer.

In conjunction with the meeting above, EPA is convening a related meeting on February 28, 2005 to initiate discussions among members of the electronics community in regard to the safe reuse and recycling of unwanted cell phones.

Plastic From Corn

Cargill Dow has developed polylactide (PLA), the first family of plastics made entirely from corn. Developed in an effort to find new uses for corn sugars, an annually renewable resource, the polymer requires 30% to 50% less fossil fuel than is needed to produce other polymers, emits less carbon dioxide - a greenhouse gas - during production, and is fully compostable in commercial composting facilities.

The Cargill Dow plastic is being used to:

  • Make sports apparel, active wear and upholstery fabrics. Its fibers absorb moisture, and are soft, wrinkle-resistant, lightweight and UV-resistant; and
  • Package consumer products as wraps for candy, flowers, meat and baked-goods.
  • It is reported to be both price and performance competitive with more conventional plastics.

For more information, see NaureWorks.

New Hazardous Waste Manifest

EPA will be releasing its new hazardous waste manifest in the Federal Register very soon. The agency says that it is improving and modernizing the hazardous waste tracking system by standardizing the Uniform Hazardous Waste Manifest form. By standardizing the form, states will no longer be allowed to create state-specific versions of the manifest. This will streamline the waste handling process, help interstate commerce, and reduce regulatory paperwork. EPA estimates the annual national burden reduction to be between $12 and $20 million.

The new manifest will clarify processing procedures for rejected waste shipments and shipment container residues and will use check boxes and adds fields to better track "difficult" shipments, such as container residues, rejected wastes, and transboundary shipments.

The standard manifest will be printed according to a precise specification to assure uniformity. Each form will carry a unique preprinted manifest tracking number. This change allows waste handlers with multi-state operations to register and use their own manifest forms everywhere they do business. EPA still has oversight of the registration process. Recordkeeping, reporting requirements, and other changes streamline and vastly improve hazardous waste tracking. The same manifest form will be used by every jurisdiction beginning in 18 months.

In May 2001, the Agency also proposed to make the manifest tracking form electronic. The Agency is working to resolve significant technological issues that arose during the comment period. Consequently, the e-manifest will be addressed in a future rule. The e-manifest remains a high priority for the Agency because it accounts for much of the annual burden reduction cost savings estimated for the original proposed rule (67 to 79 percent), and because it will greatly improve the effectiveness of hazardous waste tracking. The regulations for hazardous waste generators and transporters in 40 CFR Parts 262-263 are affected by this proposal. Related requirements for owners and operators of treatment, storage, and disposal facilities in Parts 264-265 are also affected, along with state requirements in Part 271.

A pre-publication version of the final regulation is currently available from EPA. Keep in mind that the deadlines published in the final version published in the Federal Register will be the deadlines enforced. You can also download a copy of the manifest and continuation sheet.

Site Modifications without Air Permit Leads to $110,000 Penalty

EPA assessed a $110,000 penalty and issued an administrative consent order that requires DaimlerChrysler to remove three coal-fired boilers its Kokomo, IN, Transmission Plant. The company intends to replace them with cleaner-burning natural gas boilers. The EPA said this action would cut annual sulfur dioxide emissions by 700 tons, nitrogen oxides by 100 tons and particulates (smoke, ash, soot) by 60 tons.

These actions resolve EPA allegations that DaimlerChrysler violated federal clean-air regulations by making significant modifications to its plant, increasing air pollutant emissions without getting a permit requiring control of these emissions and without adding required control technology. The agency said the company also failed to provide enough information about these modifications in its Clean Air Act Title 5 operating permit application.

Exposure to sulfur dioxide can impair breathing, aggravate existing respiratory diseases like bronchitis and reduce the ability of the lungs to clear foreign particles. Sulfur dioxide can cause acid rain and contribute to fine particle pollution. Children, the elderly and people with heart and lung conditions are the most sensitive to sulfur dioxide.

Nitrogen oxides contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone, or smog. Smog is formed when a mixture of air pollutants is baked in the hot summer sun. Smog can cause a variety of respiratory problems, including coughing and wheezing, shortness of breath and chest pain. People with asthma, children and the elderly are especially at risk, but these health concerns are important to everyone. Inhaling high concentrations of particulates can lead to heart and lung diseases. Children, the elderly and people with heart and lung diseases are the most sensitive.

Alliance to Save Energy Seeks Nominees for 2005 Star of Energy Awards

The Alliance to Save Energy invites individuals, companies, and organizations to enter its 2005 Star of Energy Efficiency Awards competition. These prestigious awards honor those who have demonstrated a significant and tangible commitment to the cause of energy efficiency and/or contribution to the energy security of our nation. This year's awards will be bestowed on Thursday, October 20 in Washington, D.C. at the Alliance to Save Energy's 13th Evening with the Stars of Energy Efficiency black-tie dinner and awards ceremony.

If you would like to submit a nomination, either for your own organization or for another group, company, or individual, that you believe deserves recognition for outstanding commitment and leadership in the energy-efficiency field, please click here for the complete 2005 nomination form and instructions. Additional information about the Alliance's dinner and history also can be found at

Improper Management of Hazardous Waste Leads to $25,000 Penalty

The EPA announced recently that the Oeser Company will pay $25,000 in penalties for on-going violations of state and federal hazardous waste regulations. Although violations of this type would typically result in a dramatically higher penalty, the agency adjusted the penalty downward based on the companyÆs demonstrated inability to pay.

The EPA noted that the Bellingham, WA, wood treating plant company had routinely failed to account for, contain, and dispose of wood preservatives used at its facility. A key provision of the settlement guarantees that the company will assume responsibility for correcting its mistakes and setting aside funds for future closure of the drip pads at the facility. The company is also responsible for Superfund cleanup costs at its property.

Site inspections of the facility and reviews of company records, between the years 2000 and 2004 found that the company violated several important regulations of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). Most significantly, Oeser failed to clean up drippage that fell on the ground from treated poles it stored in its storage yard. This drippage contains pentachlorophenol (or "penta"), which the EPA classifies as a probable human carcinogen. Additionally, the company admits it violated RCRA when it failed to properly store the hazardous waste it generated, stored dangerous wastes for more than 90 days and failed to keep required records.

EPA further alleges that Oeser violated RCRA when it:

  • failed to properly dispose of hazardous waste at an approved facility
  • failed to identify wastes as dangerous
  • failed to have a groundwater monitoring program, closure plans and financial assurance for closure

Although the Washington Department of Ecology is the lead agency with regard to the enforcement of hazardous waste regulations in the state, Ecology agreed to have EPA take the lead on enforcement at Oeser. Both agencies agree that this settlement will benefit human health and the environment.

In addition to paying the $25,000 penalty, the settlement requires the company to:

  • immediately come into compliance with dangerous waste regulations
  • cease disposing of dangerous waste at the facility
  • cease illegal storage of dangerous waste
  • clean up various locations where dangerous waste has been stored and disposed
  • set aside money to pay for cleanup of the drip pads once they cease to be used