Wondering whether an industrial plant in your neighborhood is complying with environmental laws? You can find out with just a few clicks on the Internet.
The EPA has set up a pilot web site with detailed information about inspections, enforcement actions and toxic releases at 4,500 industrial plants across the Pacific Northwest.
EPA's Environmental Compliance On-Line, launched earlier this month, allows visitors to search by name for how a plant complies with air, water and hazardous waste laws. It's the first time EPA has corralled such information in one publicly available place online. Agency officials hope the Web site can be expanded to all its regions to include facility compliance records nationwide.
The site, in cooperation with the four states, records most
enforcement actions within six weeks. The reports can be found at
COMPLAINT FILED AGAINST DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA AUTO SALVAGE YARD
The United States filed a civil action under the Clean Water Act (CWA) against Jurcharan Bian of Garcia Auto Parts of Washington, D.C., for allegedly violating federal environmental laws at its auto salvage facility. The complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., seeks injunctive relief requiring the company to abate hazardous conditions resulting from the discharge of automobile fluids and other dangerous contaminants into storm water that feeds into the Anacostia River. It also requires the company to obtain and comply with a National Pollution Discharge Elimination Systems storm water permit.
The company allegedly discharged polluted storm water containing
motor oil, lead from batteries, organic plastics, and other
hazardous materials into the District of Columbia sewer system,
which in turns drains into Hickery Run, a tributary that feeds
into the Anacostia River. In February 1999, EPA inspections
revealed that Garcia Auto Parts did not have a required CWA storm
water discharge permit. EPA issued an administrative order
requiring the salvage yard to obtain the permit and to implement
a storm water pollution control plan. However, the company failed
to obtain the permit and has continued to discharge polluted
storm water into local storm drains, the complaint alleges. The
company can be fined up to $27,500 each day, per violation under
TWO WEST VIRGINIA CORPORATIONS AND THEIR OPERATOR SENTENCED
North American Inc., a defunct company formerly located in St. Albans, W.Va.; IPI Inc., in Loudendale, W.Va.; and the companies' former operator Matthew J. Taylor, also of Loudendale, were all sentenced on Jan. 17 for a variety of federal crimes associated with a scheme to defraud West Virginia's Division of Highways from 1994-1999. The scheme involved illegally disposing of excess paint in a variety of ways, including spraying it into waterways and then using fraudulent invoices to charge the State for the paint by falsely claiming that it had been used to paint bridges.
Taylor previously pleaded guilty to violating the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), for illegally storing waste methyl ethyl ketone. IPI previously pleaded guilty to violating the Clean Water Act by spraying excess paint into Armstrong Creek near Powellton, W.Va. North American previously pleaded guilty to mail fraud and was sentenced to pay a $140,000 fine. In addition, all three defendants were ordered to pay $250,000 in restitution to the West Virginia Division of Highways, in addition to the $50,000 that they have already paid. All defendants were placed on five years probation; Taylor must also serve six months in home confinement.
The case was investigated by EPA's Criminal Investigation
Division, the FBI, the West Virginia Legislative Commission for
Special Investigations, the West Virginia Division of Highways
Auditing Section, and the West Virginia Department of
Environmental Protection, with the assistance of EPA's National
Enforcement Investigations Center and the EPA Region III
Laboratory. The case was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office
for the Southern District of West Virginia in Charleston.
ALASKA MAN AND COMPANY RECEIVE HEAVY SENTENCES FOR ASBESTOS RELATED OFFENSES
On January 12, Ricky Rushing and his company, Technic Services Inc. (TSI), were sentenced for illegally removing and disposing of asbestos at the Alaska Pulp Mill in Sitka. Rushing was sentenced to 57 months incarceration, ordered to pay a fine of $520,000, and serve three years probation. He was previously convicted by a jury of violating the Clean Air Act (CAA), the Clean Water Act (CWA), as well as for obstruction of justice. TSI, which was convicted of violating the CAA and CWA, was sentenced to pay a fine of $600,000 and must serve five years probation.
During the illegal asbestos removal at the pulp mill, substantial amounts of asbestos- contaminated slurry was rinsed into floor drains emptying directly into Silver Bay. Rushing also directed his employees to sign documentation disavowing any knowledge of these practices. Furthermore, Rushing induced his employees to remove or otherwise tamper with their personal monitors that indicated asbestos exposure levels.
Improper asbestos removal practices can lead to inhalation of asbestos fibers. Inhalation of asbestos fibers can cause a lung disease known as "asbestosis," and mesothelioma, a cancer of the chest and abdominal cavities.
This case was investigated by EPA's Criminal Investigation
Division, EPA's Office of Air Quality, and the Alaska Department
of Labor, with the assistance of EPA's National Enforcement
Investigations Center. The case was prosecuted by the U.S.
Attorney's Office for the District of Alaska in Anchorage.
EXECUTIVES AND GASOLINE BLENDING COMPANY INDICTED
On January 18, four defendants were indicted on various federal charges that arose out of an alleged scheme to falsify test results on reformulated gasoline at Caleb Brett's Linden, N.J. laboratory. The defendants are: Blending, Marketing and Service Inc., (BMS) of Houston, Texas; Waldo Schroeder, also of Houston and President of BMS; Mark Schroeder of The Woodlands, Texas, Operations Manager of BMS; and Richard Kaminski of Houston, former President of Caleb Brett U.S.A.
The indictment alleges that the defendants were involved in a scheme to change data on tests of reformulated gasoline (RFG) samples from 1995 through early 1997. The data changes made it appear as if the gasoline met EPA standards for cleaner burning fuel, when it did not. Approximately 200-300 million gallons of the substandard gasoline were distributed in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Cleaner burning RFG is required by EPA in some states to reduce air pollutants that can cause a variety of respiratory diseases.
Kaminski faces two conspiracy charges and one count of making
false statements. Mark Schroeder is charged with conspiracy and
eight counts of wire fraud. Waldo Schroeder faces one count of
conspiracy, and BMS faces one count of conspiracy and eight
counts of wire fraud. If convicted, the three defendants could
faces up to five years in prison and/or a $250,000 fine on each
count on which he was convicted. BMS faces up to $500,000 in
fines/and or up to five years probation on each count, if
convicted. The case was investigated by EPA's Criminal
Investigation Division and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office for
the District of New Jersey in Newark.
OVER 13,000 DIESEL TRUCKS WILL BE CLEANER NATIONWIDE
Through partnerships with state and local governments and industry, EPA has received commitments to clean up 13,500 diesel trucks and buses across the country by January 1, surpassing the original goal set last March of 10,000 vehicles. Retrofitting these engines will eliminate more than 15,000 tons of harmful pollution from the air each year.
EPA's Voluntary Diesel Retrofit Program helps build partnerships among industry, community groups, and state and local officials to implement retrofit projects that result in cleaner, healthier air for their communities. Cities participating in the program include Boston, New York, Seattle and Washington, DC., and New Jersey and California are instituting statewide programs. A typical older diesel truck or bus can emit almost 8 tons of pollution in a year. Heavy duty diesel vehicles are responsible for 22 percent of the nation's particulate matter (i.e., soot) emissions, and 15 percent of the nation's emissions of smog-causing nitrogen oxides.
The retrofitting of a diesel vehicle involves the installation of
an emission control device that reduces the emissions of
particulate matter, nitrogen oxides and other pollutants. More
information can be found at http://www.epa.gov/otaq/retrofit.
FINAL EFFLUENT GUIDELINES ISSUED FOR SYNTHETIC-BASED DRILLING FLUIDS
Final standards and guidelines for discharges into waterways from oil and gas drilling operations that use synthetic-based drilling fluids were issued on Jan. 22. EPA expects implementation of this rule to reduce annual discharges of pollutants into water by 118 million pounds per year, to reduce air emissions by nearly 3,000 tons a year, and to reduce energy use by the equivalent of 200,817 barrels of oil from new and existing sources. EPA projects that the overall economic effect will be a significant savings in operating costs, to result in an annual savings of $48.9 million, with no adverse economic impacts to drilling operators.
The new rule applies to oil and natural gas extraction drilling beyond three miles from shore. Most of the affected facilities are located beyond three miles from shore in the Gulf of Mexico, beyond three miles off the coast of California, and off Cook Inlet, Alaska. The rule does not apply to offshore oil and gas facilities located within three miles of a coastal area, which are covered by a separate effluent guideline allowing no discharges.
Effluent limitation guidelines are national regulations, specific
to individual industries, issued under the Clean Water Act that
control the discharge of pollutants to surface waters and to
publicly-owned treatment works. The effluent guidelines program
is one of EPA's most successful environmental protection
programs, reducing the public health and environmental impact of
pollutant discharges in over 50 industrial categories since 1974.
Additional information on the Final Effluent Limitations
Guidelines and Standards for Synthetic-Based Drilling Fluids is
available at: http://www.epa.gov/ost/guide/sbf/.
COURT RULES THAT EPA NOTICE OF PCB REGULATORY CHANGES ON INTERNET IS INADEQUATE
The DC Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that an EPA decision to post a rule change notice only on its Internet site does not constitute adequate notification. The court said that the EPA's rule change required publication in the Federal Register.
"EPA's argument is that petitioners received actual notice when EPA published the change on its Internet site and when it held a meeting attended by counsel for Utility Sold Waste Activities Group," the court said. "This court has never found that Internet notice is an acceptable substitute for publication in the Federal Register, and we refuse to do so now."
Utility Solid Waste and General Electric had argued that the EPA
failed to post proper notice of what it argued was a major change
to the agency's rules for using certain substances contaminated
with PCBs. EPA amended the PCB Mega Rule on June 24, 1999,
calling the changes minor technical amendments, but companies
claimed that the revisions exposed them to much more liability
for PCB damage than before.
HAZARDOUS WASTE MANIFEST SYSTEM STREAMLINED
Improvements have been proposed to the Uniform Waste Manifest System to streamline hazardous waste reporting requirements and save waste handlers millions of dollars each year. The rule change proposed by EPA will make it easier for generators and transporters of hazardous waste to keep track of wastes by automating the preparation and transmission of the manifest form; standardizing the content and appearance of the form; making the form more accessible; and clarifying reporting procedures.
This proposed rule affects 92,000 businesses across the country that are responsible for managing hazardous waste. EPA calculates that the proposal could save handlers more than $24 million per year. Simply automating the manifest form could save up to $27 million a year for handlers. EPA also estimates that states could save up to 25 percent in manifest-related costs.
The Uniform Hazardous Waste Manifest System was created in 1986
as a way to minimize risks to human health and the environment by
properly tracking the generation, treatment, storage,
transportation and disposal of hazardous waste. For more
GOVERNMENT SETTLES WITH DALTON UTILITIES FOR WATER VIOLATIONS
Dalton Utilities has agreed to pay a $6 million penalty to resolve violations of the Clean Water Act under a civil settlement announced on Jan. 18 between the company, EPA and the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD).
The settlement resolves allegations contained in a complaint filed by the U.S. Department of Justice on behalf of EPA and the Georgia EPD in 1998. The complaint alleged that major deficiencies were found in the company's wastewater programs (i.e., wastewater treatment facilities, laboratory, sludge handling and disposal, land application system, pretreatment program and sanitary sewer collection system). Specifically, the Land Application System was vulnerable to problems that cause wastewater to run off the site into surface waters. The violations resulted in the addition of pollutants to groundwater and to the Conasauga River and its tributaries.
The company owns and operates three biological wastewater treatment facilities which have a combined design treatment capacity of 40 million gallons per day and treat more than 29 million gallons of wastewater on an average daily basis. The company has agreed to implement significant improvements to its Land Application System to ensure that its wastewater programs are in compliance with the Clean Water Act. The improvements include implementation of its Pretreatment Program; implementation of operation and maintenance standards and procedures for its sewer collection system to prevent discharges of pollutants to waters of the State; implementation of the Land Application System Water Quality Characterization Plan; and the discontinuance of the land application of sewage sludge in certain areas.
The state of Alabama, the Coosa River Basin Initiative, and the Weiss Lake Improvement Association are also plaintiffs in the case.