October 05, 2001

EPA and the United States Attorney's Office announced they settled a Clean Air Act complaint against a Springfield decorative chromium electroplating company.

The complaint, which was filed along with a consent decree, alleges that National Metal Finishing Corp. violated the federal Clean Air Act by failing to follow reporting, notification and work practice standards for emissions of chromium and halogenated solvents.

Under the terms of the consent decree, National will pay a $29,729 fine and voluntarily spend $160,000 on a project that will reduce water pollution in the Springfield area.

Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA sets limits air pollutants and requires that companies keep records and notify environmental officials about the chemicals used in their businesses. The Clean Air Act also establishes work practice standards to ensure workers are not subjected to dangerous levels of air pollutants.

The complaint alleges that National violated the Clean Air Act by:

  • Not submitting required reports about its operations to the EPA.

  • Not developing and implementing an operations and maintenance plan for its chrome plating operations.

  • Not maintaining records required by federal regulations governing the use of halogenated solvents. Halogenated solvents, used to clean equipment, contain trichloroethylene - or TCE - a hazardous air pollutant that is carcinogenic and can cause a variety of adverse health effects.

  • Not employing all the work practice and basic equipment design requirements for halogenated solvent use.

"In order for the Clean Air Act to work, businesses need to comply with all of the regulations that go into it, even what might seem like the most mundane paperwork requirements. When companies don't do this, they are potentially putting people, their employees and neighbors at risk," Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA's New England office said.

As part of the settlement, National will install a wastewater purification and recycling system using micro-filtration and reverse osmosis. This will reduce the company's industrial waste discharge to the Springfield wastewater treatment plant by 50 percent. In addition, the filtration system will remove metal hydroxide sludge, considered a hazardous waste by EPA, from the wastewater. The sludge will be sent to a recycling facility.

Although the EPA settlement only calls for $160,000 to be spent on this project, National estimates that the cost of the wastewater treatment equipment is approximately $350,000 and $35,000 a year to operate. It will cost $2,000 a year to label and dispose of the sludge.

"National really must be commended for this wastewater filtration system. It goes above and beyond what the EPA requirement is and shows the company is a good neighbor that is interested in protecting the environment. It will protect human health and the urban environment not only in the immediate area, but far afield as well," Varney said.

The case was investigated by EPA New England attorney David Peterson and environmental engineer Tom McCusker and handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen Goodwin in Sullivan's Springfield branch office.

The complaint against National Metal Finishing is part of a larger effort by EPA that includes assisting companies that clean or finish metal and educating them on relevant environmental regulations. EPA efforts to control pollution by the metal industry stems in part from regulations enacted in 1995 to regulate emissions of chromium, trichloroethylene and other toxic chemicals.

Much of the work with the metal industry is being done through EPA's Metal Finishing Strategic Goals Program, a three-year-old program that is encouraging metal finishers to meet aggressive pollution reduction goals by the year 2002. The national program was launched in partnership with industry groups, environmental groups and state and local regulators.

Companies that sign up for the program receive compliance and pollution prevention assistance. And, as companies work toward meeting the goals, they'll be rewarded with more flexible regulatory oversight from EPA and state environmental regulators.

More information on federal regulations and how to prevent pollution is available by calling EPA's Office of Assistance and Pollution Prevention at 617-918-1718 or visit the web site http://www.epa.gov/region1/steward/neeat/metals1.html


EPA Administrator Christie Whitman and U.S. Department of Labor Assistant Secretary for OSHA John Henshaw announced that both federal agencies are providing the public with extensive additional environmental monitoring data from the World Trade Center site and nearby areas in Manhattan, Brooklyn and New Jersey. Both agencies have taken hundreds of samples to monitor environmental conditions since September 11, and have found no evidence of any significant public health hazard to residents, visitors or workers beyond the immediate World Trade Center area.

In response to public requests for more detailed information, EPA and OSHA are making the results of environmental and occupational sampling available on their sites on the World Wide Web (http://www.epa.gov and http://www.osha.gov), and will post additional data as it becomes available.

EPA and OSHA, working closely with other federal, state, and local agencies, have been sampling the air, dust, water, river sediments and drinking water and analyzing them for the presence of pollutants such as asbestos, radiation, mercury and other metals, pesticides, PCBs, or bacteria that might create health hazards. They have found no evidence of any significant public health hazard to residents or visitors to the New York metropolitan area.

"EPA's web site now has more detailed information on environmental monitoring information in New York City that should be very reassuring to residents, tourists and workers, and we will continue to update that site with information as it becomes available," said EPA Administrator Whitman. "Our data show that contaminant levels are low or non-existent, and are generally confined to the Trade Center site. There is no need for concern among the general public, but residents and business owners should follow recommended procedures for cleaning up homes and businesses if dust has entered."

OSHA Administrator John Henshaw confirmed that workers on the site should take appropriate steps to protect themselves, but there is no threat to public health. "We have more than 200 staffers involved in a round-the-clock effort, continually monitoring conditions to ensure the safety and health of workers," Administrator Henshaw said. "It is important for workers involved in the recovery and clean-up to wear protective equipment as potential hazards and conditions are constantly changing at the site; however, our samples indicate there is no evidence of significant levels of airborne asbestos or other contaminants beyond the disaster site itself."

On the whole, despite questions about potential contaminants from the Trade Center site, EPA and OSHA data indicate there is no cause for general public concern. Residents and workers returning to buildings where dust from the Trade Center has entered the building should follow proper procedures in cleaning buildings, but the general public should feel very reassured about the extensive environmental monitoring data that has been collected and analyzed. Rescue and recovery crews working on the Trade Center site should take steps to protect themselves from potential exposure to contaminants by using respirators and washing stations as recommended by EPA and OSHA.

In total, EPA and OSHA have taken 835 ambient air samples in the New York City metropolitan area. EPA is currently collecting data from 16 fixed air monitors at ground zero and in the residential and business districts around the site, and both EPA and OSHA are using portable sampling equipment to collect data from a range of locations throughout the area.

Out of a total of 442 air samples EPA has taken at ground zero and in the immediate area, only 27 had levels of asbestos above the standard EPA uses to determine if children can re-enter a school after asbestos has been removed - a stringent standard based upon assumptions of long-term exposure. OSHA has analyzed 67 air samples from the same area, and all were below the OSHA workplace standard for asbestos.

All 54 air samples from EPA's four monitors in New Jersey found no levels above EPA's standard. Another 162 samples were taken from EPA's monitors at the Fresh Kills landfill in Staten Island, where debris from the World Trade Center is being taken; only two exceeded EPA's standard.

Of 177 bulk dust and debris samples collected by EPA and OSHA and analyzed for asbestos, 48 had levels over 1 percent, the level EPA and OSHA use to define asbestos-containing material. Although early samples from water runoff into the Hudson and East Rivers showed some elevated levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxin, asbestos and metals, recent results find non-detectable levels of asbestos, and PCBs and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and metals below the level of concern.

EPA and OSHA have also conducted sampling for the presence of metals (lead, iron oxide, zinc oxide, copper and beryllium) at ground zero and in surrounding areas. None of the levels of these metals have exceeded OSHA limits.

Although EPA has measured dioxin levels in and around the World Trade Center site that were at or above EPA's level for taking action, the risk from dioxin is based on long-term exposure. EPA and OSHA expect levels to diminish as soon as the remaining fires on the site are extinguished.

Of the 36 samples of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) taken around ground zero to assist response workers in determining the appropriate level of respiratory protection, several samples have been above the OSHA standard for workers. None presented an immediate risk to workers, and the levels are expected to decline when the fires are out.


EPA announced a settlement with Romic Environmental Technologies, Corp. for alleged right-to-know violations that calls for the East Palo Alto, Calif. facility to pay over $54,000 and complete an additional $295,000 worth of environmental projects to lessen air pollution from the facility.

The settlement requires the Romic facility to install a closed switching and pumping station in its truck loading liquid transfer area, which will reduce annual emissions of volatile organic compounds by 1.6 tons annually, 1.3 tons of which are also classified as hazardous air pollutants. As a result of this project, Romic's releases of these toxic chemicals to the air will be reduced by about a fifth.

Romic is being cited for failing to report emissions of 16 toxic chemicals in its 1999 annual Toxics Release Inventory, a violation of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act. As part of the settlement, Romic has now filed these emission reports.

"People who live near industrial sources have a need and a right to know what chemicals are being used and released in their neighborhoods," said Enrique Manzanilla, director of the EPA's Cross Media division in San Francisco. "As a result of this settlement, Romic is providing a safer environment for those who live and work around the facility."

Romic Environmental Technologies, Corp. recycles solvents and treats, stores, and disposes of hazardous waste.

The reporting of data to the Toxics Release Inventory is required under the federal Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act. Under the program, certain facilities are required to report their releases of 650 toxic chemicals and chemical categories to the EPA every year. This program has been credited with arming communities with valuable knowledge and encouraging facilities to reduce their releases of toxic chemicals into the environment through source reduction, or pollution prevention measures.

Facility-specific information about toxic chemical releases can be found at http://www.epa.gov/enviro/html/tris.


Ernest U. Fisco of Beachwood, Ohio, CEO of AAA Pipe Cleaning Corp., pleaded guilty on Sept. 28 to ordering employees to dump waste into a storm drain through an illegal pipe, in violation of the Clean Water Act. As part of the plea, the defendant signed an agreement which calls for him to spend five months in prison, pay a $55,000 fine and pay $50,000 in restitution.

The storm drain involved empties into Kingsbury Run, a tributary of the Cuyahoga River. Samples of the wastes were analyzed and contained fecal coliform bacteria and industrial zinc and copper waste. Discharging fecal coliform bacteria, zinc and copper into surface waters can make them unsafe for drinking and recreational uses and creates a potential hazard to the health of fish and wildlife populations.

The case was investigated by EPA's Criminal Investigation Division, the FBI, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, and the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation. The U.S. Attorney's office in Cleveland is prosecuting the case.


Keith L. Allred of Cedar City, Utah, was sentenced on Sept. 26 to five years imprisonment and was ordered to pay $35,000 in restitution. Allred has pleaded guilty to the unlawful disposal of hazardous waste, a third degree felony under state law.

He dug a hole at the former Emerald Coach Works in Cedar City and placed a 55-gallon drum of methyl ethyl ketone it. The hole was then filled in and covered with cement. After Allred moved from the property, a consent to search was obtained from the current owner of the property and the drum was found. Sampling was conducted by EPA Emergency Response personnel and analysis was performed by the Utah State Health Lab.

The case was investigated by the Cedar City Police Department, the Iron County Sheriff's Department and EPA's Criminal Investigation Division. The case was prosecuted by the Iron County District Attorney and the Utah Attorney General's Office.


EPA was involved in several federal government settlements on Oct. 2 with three landlords in Chicago for failure to warn tenants that their apartments may contain lead-based paint hazards. Together with similar cases in New York City and Los Angeles, the settlements by EPA, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Department of Justice will result in $328,000 in civil penalties and child health improvement projects.

The agreements also called for testing and cleanup of lead based paint hazards in more than 16,000 apartments nationwide. EPA also filed an administrative complaint against Hyde Park Realty, Chicago, Ill., which manages nearly 1,000 apartments in Chicago, alleging that there were 2,600 counts of violating the Lead Hazard Reduction Act's disclosure requirements.

In the cases brought jointly by the three federal agencies, three other Chicago area real estate companies, Wolin Levin, Inc., East Lake Management and Development and Oak Park Real Estate, Inc., were accused of failing to inform their tenants of potential lead hazards in nearly 10,000 apartments in Chicago and Cincinnati. The companies are required to pay $90,000 in penalties, to pay other penalties that will benefit local children's health projects, and to test and abate any lead-based paint found in their properties.

The Lead Disclosure Rule requires that landlords and sellers of housing constructed prior to 1978 to provide each purchaser or tenant with a lead hazard information pamphlet, any information and reports concerning lead-based paint in the property and a Lead Warning statement to be signed by both parties. Lead exposure causes various health and development problems in young children. Nearly one-million children under the age of six have blood lead levels high enough to impair their ability to think, concentrate and learn. Further information on the risks of lead is available at http://www.epa.gov/leadhazard.


U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta announced grants to states, territories and Native American tribes totaling almost $12.8 million for planning and training to improve response to hazardous materials transportation incidents.

The funds were made available by the U.S. Department of Transportation's Research and Special Programs Administration (RSPA).

"Safety is President Bush and Vice President Cheney's highest transportation priority," Secretary Mineta said. "RSPA's hazardous materials emergency training program is a valuable tool in our effort to improve safety, helping emergency responders to be better prepared in case of hazardous materials incidents."

The Hazardous Materials Emergency Preparedness grant program is funded by user fees paid by shippers and carriers of certain hazardous materials. Since 1993 approximately 960,000 responders and others have received training assistance nationwide using grant funds from the program. Assistance was also given to the nation's approximately 4,000 local emergency planning committees in preparing and exercising hazardous materials emergency response plans and in conducting commodity flow studies that identify transportation hazards.

Other federal agencies are participating in the program by assisting DOT in developing hazardous materials curriculum guidelines. These agencies include the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Energy, Department of Labor, and Department of Health and Human Services.

The six largest grants were awarded to California, $964,316; Texas, $668,460; Illinois, $612,982; Ohio, $510, 751; New York, $470,968; and Florida, $453,407.


EPA Administrator Christie Whitman and Secretary Victor Lichtinger of Mexico's Secretaria de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (SEMARNAT) announced principles that will guide the U.S. and Mexico as the countries develop a new results-oriented border plan to address future environmental issues along the U.S.-Mexico border. The environmental leaders stressed an approach that will empower state and local governments as well as U.S. tribes to establish their own priorities in protecting the environment and public health in the border region. They also emphasized their commitment to have more effective participation by stakeholder groups as binational environmental plans are formulated. The two governments will look at regional work groups, furthering their commitments to more transparent decision-making and locally focused planning.

"I am pleased to be with Secretary Lichtinger to reaffirm our joint commitment to addressing the environmental challenges our countries face along our border," said Whitman. "As the border region grows, so too does the need for smart planning and close cooperation. Economic prosperity and environmental protection must go hand in hand here in the border region. I am pleased that we agree on the need for our agencies to work closely with our state partners to develop a new, results-oriented plan for border environmental activities."

"We agree on the importance of broadening our binational effort, giving state, local and U.S. tribal governments greater say and greater participation in setting the agenda for environmental progress," continued Whitman. "We also agree that our efforts to involve all the border region stakeholders -- communities, business, academia, non-governmental organizations, and state, local and U.S. tribal governments -- must be fully transparent. Both of these steps are in keeping with our shared belief in the importance, indeed the indispensability, of involving those closest to a challenge in its solution."

The idea of regionalized workgroups has been a concept encouraged by the ten states, made up of the governors of the four U.S. and six Mexico border states. More information on the U.S.-Mexico partnership is available at http://www.epa.gov/usmexicoborder/index.htm.

A notable achievement of U.S. and Mexico collaboration on environmental issues is the Juarez wastewater treatment plant, where Whitman and Lichtinger met. The need for the plant was identified and elevated by Border XXI, and it was constructed through the efforts of the Border Environmental Cooperation Commission and the North American Development Bank with U.S. and Mexican funds. Border XXI was the second binational border plan under the framework of the La Paz agreement.

Whitman also announced EPA will fund the inclusion of Mexico in the Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit (PEHSU) network. This network helps pediatricians and environmental health specialists share information and answers questions on how to better serve children impacted by exposure to environmental hazards. EPA's $155,000 grant will fund a PEHSU unit in Cuernavaca for the first year.

"It is our hope that this unit, part of the very successful pediatric environmental health specialty unit effort established three years ago will help bring the benefits of pediatric environmental health awareness to thousands of Mexican children," said Whitman.

There are 11 units in the U.S. funded by the EPA and Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR, part of CDC/ HHS), providing services to health care providers, public health officials and the general public. Pediatric heath units respond to questions from pediatricians and parents about environmentally related child health problems.

The Association of Occupational and Environmental Clinics, a non-profit that works to improve the practice of occupational and environmental health through information sharing and research, manages all eleven units in the U.S. The AOEC will work with the Institute Nacional de Salud Publica and the Hospital del Nino Morelense to establish the clinic. There is one unit in Canada that is part of the network, but not funded by the EPA. More information on the PEHSU program is available on the Internet at http://www.aoec.org.

Mexico and the U.S. have shared numerous successes along the border including increased and improved water and wastewater treatment capabilities, significantly improved air quality monitoring, the development of emission inventories, strengthened local public health capabilities and improved environmental enforcement.