January 29, 2024
A New Jersey-based hazardous waste collection and disposal corporation with locations in Valdosta, Georgia, and Lumberton, North Carolina, was sentenced in federal court for violating federal law in its handling of dangerous chemicals.
Care Environmental Corporation, through its authorized representative Francis J. McKenna, Jr., was sentenced to five years of probation, a $50,000 fine and $135,0000 restitution for remediation and cleanup by Senior U.S. District Court Judge Hugh Lawson on Jan. 17, after it previously pleaded guilty to one count of knowingly storing carbon disulfide, a hazardous material, without a permit on Aug. 14, 2023.
“Care Environmental Corporation put Valdosta residents and the South Georgia ecosystem at risk when it failed to properly dispose of hazardous waste and then compounded that failure after state and federal authorities highlighted its wrongdoings and offered a plan to correct its actions,” said U.S. Attorney Peter D. Leary. “Working with our federal, state, and local partners, our office will hold corporations accountable for criminal actions which hurt the environment and put people at risk.”
“Improperly handling and storing hazardous waste not only violates environmental regulations but places surrounding communities at risk of an accidental release, explosion or worse,” said Special Agent in Charge Charles Carfagno of EPA-CIDs Regional Office in Atlanta, GA. “I hope this sentencing reminds all those that mishandle hazardous waste that EPA and its partners will work to hold wrongdoers accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”
“This case demonstrates how local, state, and federal agencies work together to uphold and enforce laws designed to protect human health and the environment. The Georgia Environmental Protection Division appreciates and would like to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of the staff who collectively held Care Environmental Corporation accountable for its actions and developed plans to remediate this facility. Such blatant violations of our environmental laws pose serious risk to the surrounding community and to the natural resources of the State of Georgia and must be redressed,” said Sara Lips, Director of Communications and Community Engagement, Georgia DNR Environmental Protection Division.
According to court documents, Care—a hazardous waste disposal corporation headquartered in Hackettstown, New Jersey—leased a warehouse in Valdosta from 2004 to 2019, where they collected and stored pesticides, poisons, chemicals and other wastes collected from homes and generators throughout the eastern United States. McKenna is the sole officer, director, owner and operator of Care.
In Dec. 2018, Care ceased receiving materials at the facility pursuant to a voluntary closure and a 12-month plan entered into with the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GAEPD) that called for Care to properly dispose of all of the hazardous materials stored at the facility. In connection with that plan, CARE underwent regular inspections of the facility by GAEPD and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and made regular reports to GAEPD and EPA that reflected the amount of the stored hazardous waste that had been shipped for disposal and the amount remaining. During that time, Care continued to store the waste, including hazardous waste materials.
An inspection of the Valdosta facility in Oct. 2019 found approximately 2,100 55-gallon drums, 200 large totes, and two storage tanks containing waste substances in the warehouse. GAEPD and EPA Emergency Response Coordinator inspectors observed improperly stored hazardous materials inside the warehouse and office areas of the building that presented a threat to human health and the environment, and serious fire and explosion hazards. The integrity of a number of the drums and totes were compromised, resulting in leaking and potential spillage. Inspectors found a large jug containing carbon disulfide, a Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) listed hazardous waste. The knowing storage of the carbon disulfide in the amount found at the warehouse was in violation of the provisions of RCRA. Inspectors also found quantities of various other chemicals, including red and yellow phosphorus, carbon tetrachloride, hydrogen sulfide, cyanide, mercuric cyanide and elemental mercury. The warehouse was shut down in Dec. 2019.
The condition of the warehouse resulted in remediation efforts by the EPA, which included containment and cleanup. CARE operated another warehouse facility in Lumberton, North Carolina, that also required remediation and cleanup. The cost of remediation and cleanup was $43,625.28 for Valdosta and $90,590.70 for Lumberton, North Carolina, for a total of $134,215.98.
The case was investigated by the Environmental Protection Agency’s Criminal Investigation Division (EPA CID) and the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GAEPD).
Two Men Sentenced for Falsifying Documents for Testing of Equipment at Nuclear Power Plants
Two men attended sentencing hearings today in federal court for their roles in creating false calibration certificates in a matter within the jurisdiction of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).
Miguel Marcial Amaro and Martin Ramos had each previously pleaded guilty to the felony offense of making and using a false document, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001. Each defendant is banned from participation or employment in NRC-licensed activities as a condition of their plea agreement – Marcial Amaro for five years and Ramos for two years.
According to court documents, Marcial Amaro and Ramos both worked for a company that provided acoustic emissions (AE) testing to nuclear power plants to detect structural defects in the plant’s equipment, including critical components within the nuclear reactors.
Between 2010 and 2021, Marcial Amaro was responsible for ensuring that the company’s AE testing equipment was calibrated annually; Ramos worked under Marcial Amaro as an engineer. The two men created numerous false calibration certificates for AE testing equipment and 15 of these false certificates were sent a total of 29 times to nuclear plant owners as part of final testing reports required by NRC. The falsified calibration certificates were discovered in 2021 during an external audit.
Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD) and U.S. Attorney Jacqueline C. Romero for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania made the announcement.
The NRC’s Office of Investigation conducted the investigation.
Senior Trial Attorney Daniel Dooher and Trial Attorney Rachel M. Roberts of ENRD’s Environmental Crimes Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Joan E. Burnes for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania are prosecuting the case.
Stoughton Contractor Failed to Follow Safety Procedures Leading to Worker’s Fatal Injuries
A federal investigation has found that a Stoughton general contractor could have prevented an employee from suffering fatal injuries in June 2023 if the employer had followed required safety regulations and trained workers on the safe operation of heavy equipment at a Brockton work site.
The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration found LMA Services Company LLC exposed employees to struck-by and caught between hazards as they worked near a compact track loader doing excavation work for a new building at Brockton Hospital.
OSHA investigators discovered the track loader's bucket was elevated and being used to load and unload crushed stone on uneven ground as an employee worked beneath. During the operation, the employee suffered fatal injuries after being struck by the loader and pinned between the ground and the bucket. Further, after OSHA served subpoenas for documents and for managers to testify, the employer delayed providing injury and illness records, which employers are required to provide within four hours of OSHA's request.
OSHA issued LMA Services Company a willful citation for failing to adequately protect its employees. The citation noted that the employer could have protected its employees by training them to follow the manufacturer's safety warnings, being aware of hazards in the work area and establishing a site-specific safety plan. OSHA also issued the company a second other-than-serious citation for its failure to provide the requested OSHA logs within the required time period. The agency assessed $142,642 in proposed penalties.
"LMA Services Company's safety failures led to the loss of a worker's life, a tragedy that could have been prevented if proper procedures were followed," said OSHA Area Director James Mulligan in Braintree, Massachusetts. "Federal law requires employers to identify hazards that can cause harm and make corrections to ensure workers' safety and health."
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 484 fatalities caused by being struck by an object or equipment in the workplace in 2022. Approximately 75 percent of struck-by fatalities involve heavy equipment such as trucks or cranes.
EPA Completes Hazardous Material Removal from Illegal Lab in Reedley, California
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has completed removal of hazardous chemicals from an unlicensed laboratory in Reedley, California. The cleanup of the material from the unauthorized lab owned by Universal MediTech Inc. and Prestige Biotech Inc. was carried out by contractors overseen by an onsite EPA official. All recovered hazardous material was safely packaged and transported offsite for incineration at standard disposal facilities. The work was undertaken in coordination with local, state, and federal agencies.
The EPA’s removal action took place at the request of state officials and began after the removal of all biological and medical waste had been completed. The EPA contractors removed over 800 containers of standard lab chemicals such as nitric acid, phosphoric acid, and sodium hydroxide, along with flammable liquids. Some of the hazardous chemicals were found stored in containers that were incorrectly marked or incompatible for chemical storage, such as water bottles and laundry detergent containers. The EPA had initially planned on spending one to two weeks on site but was able to complete the removal actions in four days.
Chemicals and other types of hazardous material that are improperly stored and managed can pose serious threats to human health and the environment.
Popular Renovation TV Show Cited for Violating the Lead-Based Paint Rule
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a settlement agreement with Marrs Construction Co., of Bella Vista, Arkansas, addressing the company’s violations of the Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) Rule. Under the settlement, Marrs agrees to provide information about lead safety rules on its cable TV program “Fixer to Fabulous” on the Home Garden Television (HGTV) Network and through Marrs’ social media sites. Marrs is also required to pay a $35,000 civil penalty. As detailed below, this is one of multiple cases that EPA has settled involving improper lead-based paint renovation practices demonstrated on home renovation television shows on the HGTV/Discovery network.
In 2018, Marrs performed two renovations at residential properties constructed prior to 1978 without complying with applicable RRP Rule requirements. Specifically, Marrs failed to: (1) obtain recertification before beginning renovations, (2) assign a certified renovator to each renovation, (3) maintain records showing their compliance with RRP measures, and (4) perform work in accordance with the work practice standards. Since being contacted by EPA, Marrs obtained RRP firm certification, certified its complying with the RRP Rule, and pledged to comply in all future renovation activities.
“It’s important that the public understand that any renovation, repair or painting project in a pre-1978 home can easily create dangerous lead dust or expose children to dangerous, sometimes deadly, paint chips,” said David M. Uhlmann, Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “Home renovation TV programs in particular have an obligation to show the public how to renovate old homes safely and lawfully, not in a manner that is dangerous, misleading, and puts the wellbeing of children at risk.”
Lead exposure can cause irreversible and life-long health effects, including decreasing IQ, focus, and academic achievement in children. While lead is dangerous to all children, not all children are equally exposed to lead, nor do they suffer the same consequences of exposure. The harmful impacts of lead disproportionately impact environmentally overburdened, low-income families and their communities.
As part of the settlement, Marrs will help raise awareness about the EPA Lead RRP program by including educational information about compliance with the Lead RRP Rules in future episodes of “Fixer to Fabulous,” one episode in their upcoming season five and two episodes in season six. The company has also agreed to produce and post on their social media sites a 30-second video public service announcement that focuses on EPA lead safety measures. The company will also make it available to EPA for future use.
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