EPA Raises Its Penalties

January 23, 2017

EPA issued a final rule to adjust the level of statutory civil monetary penalty amounts under the statutes the Agency administers. This action is mandated by the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act of 1990, as amended through the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015.

The rule does not necessarily revise the penalty amounts that EPA chooses to seek pursuant to its civil penalty policies in a particular case. EPA's civil penalty policies, which guide enforcement personnel in how to exercise EPA's statutory penalty authorities, take into account a number of fact- specific considerations, e.g., the seriousness of the violation, the violator's good faith efforts to comply, any economic benefit gained by the violator as a result of its noncompliance, and a violator's ability to pay.

The following are some of the new maximum fines published in EPA’s final rule:

Battery Act


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EPA to Ban Use of TCE as Vapor Degreaser

Trichloroethylene (TCE) is a volatile organic compound widely used in industrial and commercial processes and has some limited uses in consumer and commercial products. EPA identified significant health risks associated with TCE use in vapor degreasing and EPA's proposed determination is that these risks are unreasonable risks. To address these unreasonable risks, EPA is proposing under section 6 of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to prohibit the manufacture (including import), processing, and distribution in commerce of TCE for use in vapor degreasing; to prohibit commercial use of TCE in vapor degreasing; to require manufacturers, processors, and distributors, except for retailers of TCE for any use, to provide downstream notification of these prohibitions throughout the supply chain; and to require limited recordkeeping.

Who is EPA’s New Acting Administrator?

Catherine R. McCabe is EPA's Acting Administrator. Previously, she served as the Deputy Regional Administrator of EPA's Region 2 in New York City. In this position, she assisted the Regional Administrator in overseeing the Region’s operations and regional implementation of all EPA programs in the States of New York and New Jersey, in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. She has also been a member of the national EPA’s Executive Management Council.

Ms. McCabe previously served as a judge on EPA’s Environmental Appeals Board (2011–2014) and as the Deputy Assistant Administrator of EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (2005–2011) in Washington, D.C. She came to EPA after a 22-year career at the U.S. Department of Justice, where she served in various positions as a manager and trial attorney in the Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, including Deputy Chief of the Environmental Enforcement Section, Assistant Chief in the Natural Resources Section, and Senior Counsel in the Policy, Legislation and Special Litigation Section.

Prior to her federal service, Ms. McCabe was an Assistant Attorney General in the Office of the Attorney General of the State of New York, and was associated with the law firm of Webster & Sheffield in New York City. Ms. McCabe holds a J.D. degree from Columbia Law School and a B.A. in environmental science from Barnard College. She also studied environmental science at the graduate level at the Columbia University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

EPA Proposal to Restrict Use of Methylene Chloride and N-Methylpyrrolidone

Methylene chloride, also called dichloromethane, is a volatile chemical that has a variety of uses, including paint and coating removal. N-methylpyrrolidone (NMP) is a solvent used in a variety of applications, including paint and coating removal. For each of these chemicals, EPA has identified risks of concern associated with their use in paint and coating removal. EPA proposes a determination that these are unreasonable risks.

EPA is proposing to prohibit the manufacture (including import), processing, and distribution in commerce of methylene chloride for consumer and most types of commercial paint and coating removal under section 6 of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). EPA is also proposing to prohibit the use of methylene chloride in these commercial uses; to require manufacturers (including importers), processors, and distributors, except for retailers, of methylene chloride for any use to provide downstream notification of these prohibitions throughout the supply chain; and to require recordkeeping. EPA is proposing an initial ten- year time-limited exemption from these proposed regulations on methylene chloride for coating removal uses critical for national security.

First, EPA is proposing to prohibit the manufacture (including import), processing, and distribution in commerce of NMP for all consumer and commercial paint and coating removal; to prohibit the use of NMP for all commercial paint and coating removal; to require, consistent with methylene chloride restrictions, downstream notification of these prohibitions throughout the supply chain; to require recordkeeping; and to provide a time-limited exemption from these proposed regulations on NMP for coating removal uses critical for national security.

For NMP, as an alternate proposal, EPA is proposing that (1) commercial users of NMP for paint and coating removal establish a worker protection program for dermal and respiratory protection and not use paint and coating removal products that contain greater than 35% NMP by weight (except for product formulations destined to be used by DoD or its contractors performing work only for DOD projects); and (2) processors of products containing NMP for paint and coating removal reformulate products such that these products do not exceed a maximum of 35% NMP by weight, identify gloves that provide effective protection for the formulation, and provide warning and instruction labels on the products.

New TSCA Recordkeeping and Reporting Requirements for Nanoscale Products

EPA has issued reporting and recordkeeping requirements for certain chemical substances when they are manufactured or processed at the nanoscale as described in this rule. The Agency is requiring persons that manufacture (defined by statute to include import) or process, or intend to manufacture or process these chemical substances to electronically report to EPA certain information, which includes insofar as known to or reasonably ascertainable by the person making the report, the specific chemical identity, production volume, methods of manufacture and processing, exposure and release information, and existing information concerning environmental and health effects.

This rule, which becomes effective May 12, 2017, involves one-time reporting for existing discrete forms of certain nanoscale materials, and a standing one-time reporting requirement for new discrete forms of certain nanoscale materials before those new forms are manufactured or processed.

New EPA Sampling Guidance for Unknown Contaminants in Drinking Water

EPA released an updated version of its Sampling Guidance for Unknown Contaminants in Drinking Water. The guidance provides procedures for conducting routine and baseline monitoring in response to a triggered event and sampling in support of remediation or decontamination efforts. It brings together recommendations for collecting, storing, preserving, and transporting samples of potentially contaminated water. It also provides recommendations to support the detection and identification of many types of contaminants in drinking water. This guidance can be used to support routine sample collection, in response to a contamination incident or during remediation or decontamination efforts.

The recommendations provided in this guidance are not mandatory and may be modified and leveraged as needed to meet the needs of individual utilities, responders, and laboratories. The recommendations provided in this document are intended to aid coordination between the utility, emergency response, and laboratory communities during the response to a contamination incident.

New Human Health Benchmarks for Pesticides in Drinking Water

EPA has updated its Human Health Benchmarks for Pesticides in drinking water to reflect the latest scientific information. The benchmarks are levels of certain pesticides in drinking water or source waters for drinking water at or below which adverse health effects are not anticipated from one-day or lifetime exposures. First developed by EPA in 2012, the benchmarks are intended to be used for informational purposes by states, tribes, water systems, and the public to help interpret monitoring data for pesticides for which there are no drinking water standards or health advisories. These revised benchmarks incorporate updated toxicity assessments from the pesticide registration process and exposure assumptions derived from the EPA’s Exposure Factors Handbook.

New Guidance for Sampling and Field Testing During Water Contamination Incidents

To aid drinking water utilities in preparing for sampling and field-testing that could occur during water contamination incidents, EPA released, “Guidance for Building Field Capabilities to Respond to Drinking Water Contamination.” The guidance outlines basic and advanced field response activities and also provides information pertaining to staffing, quality assurance, and other procedures. Additionally, the document contains useful resources; downloadable and customizable report forms and templates; supplemental information on the application; and relative costs of field-testing instrumentation and test kits.

Proposed Health and Environmental Protection Standards for Uranium and Thorium Mill Tailings

EPA has proposed new health and environmental protection standards under the Uranium Mill Tailings Radiation Control Act (UMTRCA) of 1978. The standards proposed in this action would be applicable to byproduct materials produced by uranium in-situ recovery (ISR) and would be implemented by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and NRC Agreement States. The EPA initially proposed new health and environmental protection standards for ISR facilities on January 26, 2015; however, the EPA has decided to re-propose the rule and seek additional public to comment on changes to the original proposal, including changes in the regulatory framework and approach, based on public comment and new information received from stakeholders.

The first standards for uranium recovery were issued by the EPA in 1983 when conventional mining and milling were the predominant methods of uranium extraction, and were last amended in 1995. Since the early 1990s, ISR has mostly replaced conventional milling. This proposed rule would strengthen the existing regulations for uranium recovery by adopting new standards addressing groundwater hazards specific to ISR facilities. As with the original proposal, the primary focus of this proposal is groundwater protection, restoration, and long-term stability.

The most significant changes from the original proposal include: Removing the default 30-year long-term monitoring provision and shifting to a Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Subtitle C corrective action framework as a model rather than a RCRA Subtitle C landfill framework; adding specific criteria and procedures for approving termination of long-term stability monitoring; deleting gross alpha particle activity from proposed Table 1 to subpart F of 40 CFR 192, and allowing more flexibility for the NRC or Agreement States to determine on a site-specific basis the constituents for which concentration based standards are set. The EPA has also sought to clarify how these standards under UMTRCA complement, and do not overlap with, the requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA).

This action also proposes amendments to certain provisions of the existing rule to address a ruling of the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, to update a cross-reference to another environmental standard and to correct certain technical and typographical errors. The proposed rule has been informed by input from the NRC, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), states, tribes, industry, environmental groups, and other stakeholders, and would promote public health and protect groundwater by reducing the potential for groundwater contamination after production has ceased, and in aquifers adjacent to ISR facilities during uranium recovery.

Compendium of State Approaches for Manure Management

EPA released a “Compendium of State Approaches for Manure Management,” which highlights state programs and approaches that have proven to be successful at promoting good manure management at animal feeding operations, implemented on the ground, and focused on achieving environmental benefits. The Compendium focuses on elements of state programs, ranging from specialized tools and training to state-specific regulations and permitting. Suggestions for additional case studies and programs to highlight in this living document can be sent to CAFO_Team@epa.gov.

Protective Action Guide for Drinking Water After a Radiological Incident

EPA, in coordination with a multi-agency working group within the Federal Radiological Preparedness Coordinating Committee, recently updated its guidance manual on this topic, titled “Protective Action Guides and Planning Guidance for Radiological Incidents” (referred to herein as the PAG Manual). On December 8, 2016, EPA announced availability of the updated 2016 PAG Manual in the Federal Register. In this document, EPA is announcing that it has amended Chapter 4 of the 2016 PAG Manual to incorporate guidance for radiation protection decisions concerning drinking water. The drinking water PAG is not binding and does not in any way affect regulatory requirements or enforcement of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), including maximum contaminant limits (MCLs) for radionuclides established by regulation under the SDWA. The drinking water PAG is guidance only and is intended for use by federal, state, and local emergency management officials in the unlikely event of significant radiological contamination incidents, such as a disaster at a nuclear power plant, a radiological dispersal device or an improvised nuclear device, and for a duration which may last for weeks to months but not longer than one year. The dose levels reflected in the drinking water PAG provide a level of protection against cancer risks for a short-term (weeks to months but not longer than a year), similar to that provided by EPA's MCLs for radionuclides (which are calculated based on 70 years of exposure).

The PAG Manual in electronic form suitable for printing, as well as related guidelines and further information, can be found on the PAGs' Web site at http://www.epa.gov/radiation/protective-action-guides-pags.

C.E. Bradley Fined $71,000 for Hazardous Waste Violations

A Brattleboro, Vermont, company that manufactures coatings will design and install a system that captures and controls solvent vapors at its plant, ensuring that workers are protected from solvent emissions and that the environment is protected from a possible release of solvent emissions.

In an agreement with the EPA, C.E. Bradley Laboratories will spend $272,711 on an environmental project that consists of designing and installing a solvent emission capture and control system in the manufacturing area of its Brattleboro facility. C.E. Bradley, which makes coatings for the wood, metal, graphic arts and plastic industries, also agreed to maintain its facility in compliance with federal and state hazardous waste laws, including properly managing its containers of hazardous waste and ending the practice of hanging solvent-contaminated rags to dry.

"This settlement will help protect workers and neighboring communities from potential exposure to hazardous wastes," said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA's New England office. "Due to EPA's action, the company not only has taken steps to correct the alleged violations but also has undertaken a project to create a safer workplace."

The company will also pay a penalty of $71,000 to settle claims by EPA that it violated federal and state hazardous waste laws. According to a 2015 complaint against the company by EPA, C.E. Bradley faced nine claims of violations of state and federal hazardous waste regulations under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).

The case stems from an August 2014 inspection of the facility in which inspectors found numerous drums of hazardous waste that were alleged to have been stored for well over 90 days, rags contaminated with solvents hung to dry, hazardous wastes stored in open containers, and a cracked and deteriorated concrete containment area in the main hazardous waste storage area.

Storing hazardous wastes in open containers and the open air-drying of solvent-contaminated rags resulted in emissions of volatile organic compounds to the air. The illegal storage of hazardous waste for an extended period of time, and cracked and deteriorated containment could have resulted in hazardous wastes being released to the environment.

Matson Fined $750,000 For Spilling Molasses into Honolulu Harbor

The EPA recently announced a settlement with Matson Terminals, Inc., over federal Clean Water Act violations relating to a September 2013 molasses spill into Honolulu Harbor. Matson has agreed to pay a civil penalty of $725,000.

“Dockside facilities must ensure their operations do not pollute nearshore waters,” said Alexis Strauss, EPA’s Acting Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “The Honolulu Harbor spill affected marine life, coral reefs and kept residents and visitors from enjoying the city’s incomparable coastal environment.”

From September 8 to 10, 2013, Matson spilled approximately 233,000 gallons of sugarcane molasses into Honolulu Harbor during ship-loading activities. The spill occurred from a section of pipe that the Hawaii Department of Transportation found was leaking in 2012, and reported to Matson. The molasses discharge killed approximately 25,000 fish in the harbor and damaged coral reefs in the area. Matson no longer ships molasses from Honolulu Harbor.

The recent civil action by EPA follows a January 2015 criminal action taken by the U.S. Attorney’s Office against Matson, in which Matson paid a $400,000 fine plus restitution of $600,000 after pleading guilty to criminal charges of unlawfully discharging molasses into Honolulu Harbor. Under the terms of the plea agreement, the restitution was divided equally between the Waikiki Aquarium to support coral reef programs and invasive algae cleanups and Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii to inspire local communities to care for coastlines through beach cleanups.

In 2015, Matson also reached an agreement with the State of Hawaii to cease transporting molasses through Honolulu Harbor, remove the molasses distribution system, pay for re-growing corals that were damaged or destroyed, and reimburse related cleanup costs.

EPA and Customs Joint Operations at Southern California Ports Result in Fines and Seizure of Illegal Engines and Pesticides

EPA and U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced $217,998 in fines and more than 5,325 items seized or denied entry to the United States. These are the latest results of continued joint operations at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach targeting foreign-made engines, including scooters, ATVs, chainsaws and construction equipment without proper emission controls, as well as pesticides that violate federal law.

“EPA and Customs have been working closely together to ensure imported engines meet air quality requirements,” said Alexis Strauss, EPA’s Acting Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “The enforcement cases announced today will prevent more than 1.5 million pounds of harmful air pollutants from being emitted into our air annually.”

Under the joint initiative, EPA has been conducting regular inspections with CBP at California ports of entry since 2014. With more than 40% of containerized goods coming into the U.S. through Los Angeles and Long Beach, the focus has been on engines, vehicles and pesticides. Mobile sources, such as on-road and off-road vehicles, are one the largest sources of air pollution in California and account for approximately 20% of PM2.5 (fine particulate matter up to 2.5 microns in diameter) and 83% of nitrogen oxide emissions.

Watch a new 4-minute video about EPA’s work at the ports, including a deeper look on how inspections, including laboratory testing, are conducted: https://youtu.be/QjNR2eDeTSw

Several companies were found to have imported vehicles and engines without certification or proper emissions controls. Engines operating without adequate controls emit excess carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides, which can cause respiratory illnesses, aggravate asthma and lead to the formation of ground level ozone or smog. These inspections also targeted companies attempting to import unregistered or improperly labeled pesticides. Pesticide labels contain critical safety information that help prevent harm to human health and the environment.

In total, from December 2015 through December 2016, 17 companies paid $202,998 in civil penalties for federal Clean Air Act violations:

  • Yamagin Tsusho Company Limited: imported six mini-trucks from Japan. The mini-trucks did not have the proper certificates for their evaporative emissions components, such as fuel tanks and fuel hoses, and lacked the proper certificates for their catalytic converters. The company was required to ship the mini-trucks out of the United States and pay a $65,000 penalty.
  • Pacific Rim International West, Inc.: imported 104 all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) from China that contained catalysts not matching their description in the import application. The company was required to ship the ATVs out of the United States and pay a $30,000 penalty.
  • Vitacci Motorcycles, Inc.: imported 457 ATVs from China. The ATVs contained catalysts not matching their description in the import application. The company was required to ship the ATV’s out of the United States and pay an $18,000 penalty.
  • Ming’s International, Inc.: imported 1,105 2-stroke spark ignition engines from China without the proper certification requirements. The company was required to ship the engines out of the United States and pay a $13,898 penalty.
  • Xcalibur, Inc.: imported 148 motorcycles from Taiwan. The motorcycles contained catalysts not matching their description in the import application. The company was required to ship the motorcycles out of the United States and pay a $13,300 penalty.
  • De Well Logistics, LLC: imported 1,060 uncertified chainsaw, mower, and outboard engines from China without the proper labels or certificates. The company was required to ship the engines out of the United States and pay a $10,100 penalty.
  • JMC Motors, LLC: imported 12 ATVs from China without the proper certification requirements and containing catalysts not matching their description in the import application. The company was required to ship the ATVs out of the United States and pay an $8,800 penalty.
  • Value Group (SSR Motorsports): imported 108 scooters from China that contained catalysts not matching their description in the import application. The company was required to ship the scooters out of the United States and pay an $8,400 penalty.
  • Lil Pick Up, Inc.: imported 1,051 ATVs in 13 separate shipments from China that lacked the proper certification requirements. The company was required to ship the ATVs out of the United States and pay a $7,000 penalty.
  • Spira4U Co., Ltd.: imported 10 motorcycles from China. The motorcycles contained catalysts not matching their description in the import application. The company was required to ship the motorcycles out of the United States and pay a $6,500 penalty.
  • Stark International, Inc.: imported 500 generators from China that contained catalysts not matching their description in the import application. The company was required to ship the generators out of the United States and pay a $5,000 penalty.
  • CMT USA Industrial, Inc.: imported 252 types of construction equipment with uncertified nonadjustable carburetors or fuel tanks, in numerous shipments from China. The company was required to ship the equipment out of the United States and pay a $4,400 penalty.
  • Innovative Energy Solutions Corporation: imported 78 gasoline generators from China without the proper certificates for evaporative emissions components such as fuel tanks and fuel hoses. The company was required to ship the generators out of the United States and pay a $4,200 penalty.
  • Scooter Importer, LLC: imported 48 scooters from China that contained catalysts not matching their description in the import application. The company was required to ship the scooters out of the United States and pay a $2,700 penalty.
  • Ridgerock Tools, Inc.: imported 100 generators from China that contained catalysts not matching their description in the import application. The company was required to ship the generators out of the United States and pay a $2,100 penalty.
  • Rajysan, Inc.: imported 50 generators from China that contained catalysts not matching their description in the import application. The company was required to ship the generators out of the United States and pay a $2,000 penalty.
  • Teng Chang, Inc.: imported 20 marine engines from China that contained spark-ignitions without proper labels or valid certificates. The company was required to ship the engines out of the United States and pay a $1,600 penalty.

EPA and CBP also prevented 15 shipments of pesticides from entering the country and brought a Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act enforcement action against Dow AgroSciences LLC for importing 216 bags of the pesticide Glyphosate Technical FH from China. The pesticide, used to kill weeds, was produced in a facility in China, not in a U.S. facility as described by the company. The company fixed the paperwork violations and paid a $15,000 civil penalty.

Meadowvale Dairy Fined for Clean Water Act Violations

Meadowvale Dairy, LLC, has agreed to pay a civil penalty and take actions to prevent illegal discharges to Iowa streams in compliance with the Clean Water Act, officials of the EPA and the U.S. Department of Justice announced recently. Meadowvale Dairy operates multiple concentrated animal feeding operations in Rock Valley, Iowa.

Since 2002, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources has identified multiple violations of the dairy’s two National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits, which included fish kills in tributaries that lead to the Big Sioux River in 2004 and 2009. State and EPA inspections discovered evidence of additional unauthorized discharges of stormwater runoff into the tributaries in 2013 and 2014.

“This settlement sends a clear message that concentrated animal feeding operations must comply with Clean Water Act in order to prevent future discharges into our waters,” said John C. Cruden, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “The agreement requires remedial measures to reduce pollutants and protect aquatic ecosystems in the short term, as well as third party auditing to ensure long-term compliance with the terms of the consent decree and the controlling permits.”

“The vast majority of animal feeding operations adhere to the law and actively seek to be responsible stewards of the environment,” said Mark Hague, EPA Region 7 regional administrator. “The settlement today helps ensure a level playing field for all operators by holding those who violate environmental regulations accountable.”

“The scope of the injunctive relief and the size of the civil penalty are a clear signal to Iowa’s CAFOs about the importance of compliance. This settlement demonstrates the Department of Justice's commitment to enforcing the Clean Water Act as enacted by Congress,” said U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Iowa Kevin Techau.

As outlined in the proposed consent decree lodged in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa, in addition to civil penalties Meadowvale Dairy will be required to implement injunctive relief that includes short-term and long-term corrective measures to prevent unpermitted discharges of pollutants into tributaries. Injunctive relief includes:

Retain an independent third party to develop and perform an audit, verifying compliance with the requirements of the proposed consent decree.

Comply with all requirements of its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits, including adherence to its Nutrient Management Plan. A Nutrient Management Plan typically outlines management and conservation practices to optimize productivity of the operation while conserving nutrients and protecting the environment. It may include practices such as appropriate manure and fertilizer storage and handling methods, managing the diet of the animals, and/or irrigation practices.

Ensure all production areas are designed, constructed and operated to prevent unpermitted discharges with an exclusion for a 25-year, 24-hour storm event.

EPA estimates that changes made by Meadowvale required by this proposed settlement will result in a reduction of approximately 200,000 lb of pollutants discharged annually. These reductions help to protect aquatic ecosystems, decrease sedimentation and improve overall water quality. The settlement also requires Meadowvale Dairy to pay $160,000 in civil penalties for alleged violations of the Clean Water Act related to mismanagement of animal wastes.

Meadowvale Dairy operates two NPDES-permitted large concentrated animal feeding operations, confining approximately 10,000 head of cattle on a combined 185 acres in Rock Valley. The operation includes four locations—North Site and South Site (both permitted), a calf barn/hut, and a satellite concrete manure storage structure.

The proposed consent decree is subject to a 30-day public comment period and approval by the federal court. Meadowvale Dairy would be required to pay the monetary penalty within 30 days of the court's approval of the settlement.

Maine Blueberry Processor Mishandled Anhydrous Ammonia

The owner of a blueberry processing facility in Hancock, Maine has come into compliance with federal requirements designed to protect the public and first responders from exposure to hazardous chemicals, under the terms of a recent settlement with EPA.

Hancock Foods operates a blueberry processing plant and cold storage warehouse in Hancock, where it uses anhydrous ammonia in its refrigeration systems. The facility first submitted a "Risk Management Plan" (RMP) in March 1999. Such a plan is required for all facilities using certain amounts of extremely hazardous substances, including anhydrous ammonia, in order to help local fire, police, and emergency response personnel prepare for and respond to chemical emergencies. The RMP regulations also require facilities to prevent chemical releases by designing and operating their chemical processes in a safe manner.

"Hancock has worked cooperatively with EPA through this process and has worked hard to correct its violations," said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA's New England office. "These air and reporting laws help protect public health, first responders, and our environment."

In the settlement, Hancock Foods, Inc., agreed to pay $103,613 to settle claims that it violated Section 112(r) of the Clean Air Act in its handling of anhydrous ammonia and $5,110 to settle claims it violated the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act—or Superfund law—when it failed to timely report a release of anhydrous ammonia.

The case stems from a 2012 inspection of Hancock Foods in which EPA inspectors saw potentially dangerous conditions relating to the ammonia refrigeration processes. Further, the company failed to immediately notify the National Response Center upon discovering a release of about 300 lb of ammonia from a refrigeration unit on March 27, 2015. EPA responded to the violations at Hancock in two stages—first ensuring that the CAA violations were addressed in an administrative compliance order, then following up with a penalty action.

Anhydrous ammonia is an efficient refrigerant with many environmental benefits, but it must be used with care because it is corrosive to the skin, eyes, and lungs. Ammonia is also flammable under certain conditions. It can explode if released in an enclosed space when there is a source of ignition, or if a vessel holding anhydrous ammonia is exposed to fire. A large ammonia release can spread through the air to impact neighbors.

The Hancock Foods case is one of many that EPA has brought to improve safety at companies that have industrial refrigeration systems. Given the number of dangerous ammonia leaks that have occurred at such facilities, EPA has started a national enforcement and compliance initiative for the next three years to focus more intensely on reducing the risks of chemical releases from various types of facilities that use extremely hazardous chemicals, including those that use anhydrous ammonia as a refrigerant.

Other recent cases involving violation of the Clean Air Act's chemical accident prevention requirements at facilities with ammonia refrigeration systems include:

An April 2016 settlement with Penobscot McCrum, a Belfast, Maine, potato processing plant, in which the company agreed to pay $60,500 in civil penalties and to spend $83,400 on equipment for emergency responders and on public safety improvements at its facility. Also, the company agreed to contract with responders who had specialized training to safely respond to any future ammonia release, as the City fire department did not have such training.

A settlement with Garelick Farms in Lynn, Massachusetts, to resolve many RMP violations. This Dec. 2015 settlement required payment of a civil penalty of $255,000; performance of a third-party audit to confirm that the company's Franklin, Massachusetts, facility is in compliance with RMP requirements; and the performance of three supplemental environmental projects at a cost of approximately $316,000. These projects will (a) minimize the chances of a large ammonia release at the Lynn facility through beyond-compliance upgrades to its ammonia detection and emergency notification system; (b) improve the Lynn Fire Department's ability to respond to hazardous materials incidents through the donation of emergency response equipment and training; and (c) protect Lynn school children by removing unneeded hazardous chemicals from the high school science laboratory, purchasing lab safety equipment, and providing chemical management training for teachers. The company also spent over $2.5 million to address the plant's safety deficiencies after EPA's inspection in December 2012.

A compliance order issued to Stavis Seafoods, Inc. of Boston, Massachusetts on September 19, 2016 pursuant to the Clean Air Act's "General Duty Clause." This seafood processing company had a significant accidental release of ammonia on March 23, 2016, which resulted in the death of an employee and temporarily closed down nearby streets. The order required the company (which had discontinued operations at the location after the accident and removed most of its ammonia) to remove all the ammonia and refrain from adding ammonia back into the refrigeration system until the dangerous conditions identified by EPA have been addressed.

On September 30, 2016, EPA issued an administrative penalty order to RBF Frozen Desserts of West Hartford, Connecticut, for violations of the Clean Air Act's General Duty Clause after finding serious safety deficiencies at its frozen dessert manufacturing facility. The facility was located in the same building as a restaurant and theatre. Among the most serious problems was an ammonia pressure vessel with no functional pressure relief system located under a restaurant. An over-pressurized vessel could explode during a fire, releasing toxic ammonia vapors into the restaurant and outside the building. Also, ammonia was leaking from equipment during EPA's inspections. A previous compliance order, issued in August 2014 pursuant to the Clean Air Act's imminent and substantial endangerment authority, required the company to remove the ammonia before addressing the safety deficiencies. When the company was unable to comply with the order in a timely fashion, EPA had the ammonia removed using Superfund authority.

City of Tyler, Texas, Fined $563,000 for Clean Water Act Violations

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the EPA announced the city of Tyler, Texas, agreed to significantly upgrade its sanitary sewer system to resolve alleged violations of the federal Clean Water Act (CWA). The city will also undertake extensive operational improvements to its sanitary sewer system and pay a total of $563,000 in civil penalties.

DOJ, on behalf of the EPA, and the State of Texas, on behalf of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, jointly filed a complaint against the city of Tyler alleging that, since 2005, the city has allowed and continues to allow untreated sewage to overflow from the city’s sanitary sewer system in violation of the CWA and the Texas Water Code. The complaint alleges the city failed to properly operate and maintain its sewer system, resulting in problems including blockages in underground pipes, general system defects and power failures. These problems can impact public health and local water quality by allowing releases of untreated sewage into local waterways and the community. The complaint specifically alleges instances of raw sewage entering into both local waterways and into Tyler residents’ private homes and yards. Many of these sanitary sewer overflows occurred in low-income and minority communities.

“The people of Tyler have experienced sewer overflows for the past decade and deserve those conditions to come to an end,” said Acting United States Attorney Brit Featherston. “This agreement ensures that vital infrastructure, required for the very basic of our citizens’ needs, will be upgraded, and the degradation of the city of Tyler’s sewer system will be halted. The agreement’s key provisions will modernize Tyler’s sewer system, substantially reduce the number of sewer overflows and discharges to local waterways, and protect the environment and the health of the citizens of Tyler.”

“Providing clean, reliable water service is one of the most important responsibilities cities have to their residents,” said EPA Regional Administrator Ron Curry. “Improvements to the city’s treatment of wastewater has direct benefit to citizens.”

To comply with the terms of the settlement and significantly reduce future sanitary sewer overflows, the city must comprehensively assess and improve its sewer system’s physical condition by repairing or replacing damaged assets within a certain time period after their discovery. The city must also analyze sewer system capacity using an updated hydraulic model and undertake a tailored program to implement detailed capacity management, operation and maintenance procedures. The city must keep the public directly informed of its progress when complying with the consent decree by creating a public document repository on the city’s website, where it is required to post any report required by the consent decree and all final EPA-approved plans. The city must also consider, among other things, the location of past sanitary sewer overflows in low income or minority communities when prioritizing the sequence for certain cleaning or remedial work. EPA estimates the combination of these mandated efforts will require the city to spend approximately $65 million over the next 10 years.

Tyler’s entire wastewater collection and treatment system includes 690 miles of main lines, 22 lift stations and over 9,000 manholes as part of its sanitary sewer system, which sends untreated wastewater to two wastewater treatment plants. Tyler’s system serves approximately 32,000 customers and 109,000 people.

Keeping raw sewage out of the community and the waters of the United States is a national priority for EPA, as sewage overflows can present a significant threat to human health and the environment. These discharges can degrade water quality, spread bacteria and viruses and cause diseases ranging from gastroenteritis to life-threatening conditions such as cholera and dysentery.

The settlement, which will be lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, is subject to a federal 30-day public comment period. The State of Texas also has a required 30-day public comment period.

Ferroalloys NESHAP Revisions

EPA has issued a final decision on the issues for which it announced reconsideration on July 12, 2016, that pertain to certain aspects of the June 30, 2015, final amendments for the Ferroalloys Production source category regulated under national emission standards for hazardous air pollutants (NESHAP). The Agency is amending the rule to allow existing facilities with positive pressure baghouses to perform visible emissions monitoring twice daily as an alternative to installing and operating bag leak detection systems (BLDS) to ensure the baghouses are operating properly.

EPA is maintaining the requirement that facilities must use a digital camera opacity technique (DCOT) method to demonstrate compliance with opacity limits. However, this final action revises the rule such that it references the recently updated version of the DCOT method. In this action, the EPA also explains that no changes are being made regarding the rule provision that requires quarterly polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) emission testing for furnaces producing ferromanganese (FeMn) with an opportunity for facilities to request decreased compliance test frequency from their permitting authority after the first year. Furthermore, in this action, the EPA is denying the request for reconsideration of the PAH emission limits for both FeMn and silicomanganese (SiMn) production furnaces.

This final action became effective on January 18, 2017.

Bandit Industries, Inc., Fined $3 Million for Clean Air Act Violations

The EPA recently announced a settlement with Bandit Industries, Inc., for alleged violations of the Clean Air Act for selling non-road diesel engines and equipment used to process wood and waste that do not meet federal standards. Bandit, based in Remus, Michigan, will pay a $3 million civil penalty.

Bandit is a manufacturer of self-powered, industrial-strength wood and waste processing equipment, such as wood chippers. The complaint alleges that Bandit sold non-road diesel-fueled engines and equipment that were neither covered by the certificates of conformity required by the Clean Air Act, nor exempt from that certification requirement under the requirements of the Transition Program for Equipment Manufacturers (TPEM). Additionally, as alleged, Bandit built and sold equipment with engines using older emission standards in exceedance of normal inventory restrictions, commonly referred to as “stockpiling.”

To meet current diesel-fuel emissions standards, equipment manufacturers generally modify their equipment designs to accommodate engines with additional and improved emissions control devices. In the TPEM program, EPA adopted transition provisions for equipment manufacturers to provide flexibility to selectively delay compliance with current emissions standards for up to seven years. The complaint alleges that Bandit did not transition to the current emissions standards in time, and sold equipment with older noncompliant engines, creating a competitive advantage over manufacturers offering compliant products.

Use of equipment that does not meet current more stringent emissions standards increases emissions of particulate matter, among other pollutants. Particulate matter has been linked to a range of serious respiratory health problems that include premature mortality, aggravation of respiratory and cardiovascular disease, aggravated asthma, acute respiratory symptoms including aggravated coughing and difficult or painful breathing, chronic bronchitis and decreased lung function that can be experienced as shortness of breath. Symptoms of immunological effects such as wheezing and increased allergenicity have also been observed. In addition, EPA’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee has concluded that diesel exhaust is likely to be carcinogenic to humans.

A stipulation of judgment and a complaint will be simultaneously filed in the Western District of Michigan. Since there is no injunctive relief in the stipulation, there is no public comment period.

S.H. Bell Ordered to Reduce Manganese Emissions

The EPA and the U.S. Department of Justice recently announced a proposed consent decree with S.H. Bell Company requiring the company to monitor and take measures to reduce manganese emissions from its 92-acre plant that spans the Pennsylvania-Ohio border in Ohioville, Pennsylvania, and East Liverpool, Ohio.

The proposed consent decree was filed in federal district court in Cleveland along with a complaint alleging that airborne manganese particles from S.H. Bell’s facility may endanger the health of residents who live near the facility. The government complaint is based on authority of the Clean Air Act and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (“CERCLA” also known as the “Superfund” statute). The recent federal action builds upon actions previously taken by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA) and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

According to EPA, air monitoring conducted in East Liverpool, Ohio and Glasgow, Pa. by Ohio EPA and Pennsylvania DEP showed that the company’s operations have contributed to or caused elevated airborne manganese levels in residential areas near the S.H. Bell facility.

Manganese is a naturally occurring element found in many soils, rocks and foods, and is used in the production of steel and other industrial processes. Manganese can be toxic when inhaled by humans at elevated exposure levels, leading to neurological and neuropsychological damage.

In the proposed consent decree, S.H. Bell has agreed to several measures to provide both immediate and long-term reductions in fugitive manganese emissions. These safeguards include fugitive dust control measures (such as rolling doors, and a baghouse with monitoring/recording systems); a tracking system for manganese materials and video recordings of certain facility operations to help the company and regulators determine the source of manganese emissions detected in the future; fenceline monitoring with EPA-approved monitors; and required steps to investigate and, if needed, take corrective action if emissions exceed specified trigger levels.

As part of the settlement, the company did not admit liability. The proposed consent decree is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval.

Tauber Oil Company Settles Allegations of Selling Unregistered Fuel Additive in Violation of Clean Air Act

The EPA recently announced a settlement with Tauber Oil Company, resolving alleged Clean Air Act violations stemming from the company's sale of a fuel additive that was not registered with the EPA. Tauber stopped selling the unregistered fuel additive and will pay a $700,000 civil penalty.

The settlement resolves claims that Tauber produced a fuel additive called Mixed Alcohol by blending together various alcohol streams, then sold approximately 1.9 million gallons of Mixed Alcohol without first registering it as a fuel additive with the EPA or meeting the Clean Air Act requirement that fuel and fuel additives are substantially similar to what was used in the certification of motor vehicles. Tauber is a manufacturer and marketer of petroleum and petrochemical products based in Houston, Texas.

The Clean Air Act establishes fuel quality and emissions standards, including requirements relating to the registration and sale of fuel additives, to reduce air pollution from motor vehicles, like passenger cars. These requirements provide EPA with information on fuel additive composition to prevent potential increases in harmful pollutants that may result either directly from the combustion of additive-containing fuel or indirectly due to the degradation of vehicle emission control systems that additive-containing fuel can cause.

The Clean Air Act requires that a fuel additive manufacturer must register the fuel additive with the EPA before selling, offering for sale, or introducing the additive into commerce. Also, the Clean Air Act makes it unlawful for fuel additive manufacturers to first introduce into commerce, or to increase the concentration in use of, any fuel or fuel additive in motor vehicles that is not substantially similar to any fuel or fuel additive utilized in engine certification.

The stipulation of settlement and order, lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, will undergo a 30-day public comment period and approval by the federal court.

Magellan Pipeline Settles Alleged Clean Water Act Violations Related to Multiple Spills

The EPA and the Department of Justice recently announced a settlement with Magellan Pipeline Company, L.P., for alleged violations of the Clean Water Act related to gasoline, diesel and jet fuel spills in Texas City, Texas; Nemaha, Nebraska; and El Dorado, Kansas. Magellan has agreed to complete approximately $16 million of injunctive relief across its 11,000-mile pipeline system and pay a $2 million civil penalty.

"Fuel spills have real and lasting impacts on clean water for communities," said Cynthia Giles, Assistant Administrator for EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. "Companies need to take the necessary precautions to make sure fuel is transported safely and responsibly. This settlement puts in place important pipeline safety and spill prevention measures that make this industry safer for communities."

“This settlement holds Magellan accountable for multiple petroleum fuel pipeline spills that impacted waterways in three states,” said John C. Cruden, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “The terms of the agreement require Magellan to improve training of its staff and monitoring of its pipeline system’s integrity, and increase public transparency about leaks and responses.”

According to a complaint and consent decree filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma, Tulsa, Oklahoma-based Magellan is responsible for spilling a combined total of approximately 5,177 barrels of petroleum products in three separate incidents. The complaint alleges that Magellan was responsible for the following illegal discharges:

On February 24, 2011, a Magellan owned 18-inch refined petroleum products pipeline ruptured in an area north of Texas City, Texas, and spilled approximately 482 barrels of gasoline. The spill impacted a local watercourse known as Pierre Bayou.

On December 10, 2011, two of Magellan’s refined petroleum products pipelines were struck by a third-party who was operating heavy machinery while attempting to clear a hedgerow in an agricultural field near the town of Nemaha, Nebraska. The strikes resulted in the spilling of approximately 650 barrels of diesel fuel from one line, and approximately 655 barrels of jet fuel and 1,529 barrels of gasoline from the other. The spills impacted a local watercourse know as Jarvis Creek. Cleanup efforts are still underway and will be completed as part of the proposed consent decree.

On May 4, 2015, a Magellan owned 10-inch refined petroleum products pipeline ruptured near the City of El Dorado, Kansas, and spilled approximately 1,861 barrels of diesel fuel. Diesel fuel from that spill impacted a local watercourse known as Constant Creek.

The consent decree requires Magellan to: (1) complete an ongoing spill cleanup effort in Nebraska; (2) institute an enhanced annual training program for its third-party damage prevention staff; (3) update and enhance company information resources concerning selective seam corrosion; (4) update its integrity management plan; and (5) create a publicly-accessible web page that will report information about certain types of pipeline releases and Magellan’s responses to them.

The requirement to create a publically accessible web page directly supports EPA’s Next Generation Compliance efforts to expand transparency.

The consent decree is subject to a 30-day public comment period and approval by the federal court.

Staten Island Company Executive Arrested For Environmental Cover-Up

An 18-month investigation by New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Environmental Conservation Officers (ECOs) and the Richmond County District Attorney's office has led to the arrest of a company vice president who police say falsified documents concerning a gasoline-contaminated remediation project on Staten Island.

Vincent Nantista, lead engineer and vice president of Soil Mechanics Drilling Corp., was arrested Wednesday and charged in Richmond County Criminal Court with 11 counts of falsifying business records in the 1st degree and eight counts of offering a false instrument for filing in the 1st degree, all Class E felony charges.

Nantista entered a plea of not guilty and was released on his own recognizance.

"When companies put profits above safety, it jeopardizes the health of our environment and communities," DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said. "I applaud the work of our investigators and the Richmond County District Attorney Michael E. McMahon and his staff in aggressively pursuing this case, which sends a strong message to other companies trying to cheat our environmental laws."

"This defendant is alleged to have filed false reports to impede NYS DEC's assessment of contaminated soil in the ground," District Attorney Michael E. McMahon said. "These actions are both a betrayal of public trust and potentially harmful to the environment and the people of Staten Island. I commend DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos for thoroughly investigating this matter and the professionalism his team has exhibited while working in partnership with our ADAs."

The investigation began in June of 2015 when staff from DEC's Region 2 Division of Environmental Remediation noticed a possible false filing of reports concerning an ongoing cleanup project on Staten Island.

Soil Mechanics, a certified remediation company, was cleaning up a site of a former gas station at 900 Hylan Blvd. that had, in prior years, caused significant gasoline contamination to the soil and surrounding groundwater. A multi-million dollar construction project was planned for the site, and as part of the cleanup, Soil Mechanics staff were tasked with monitoring wells and bailing them of any gasoline present. After several years of remediation, contamination remained.

Investigators allege that the professional engineer in charge of the project, Nantista, grew frustrated with the slow process and, in attempt to speed up the project, began to alter monitoring data gathered by the company's field technicians.

DEC remediation staff and investigators from the Bureau of Environmental Crimes Investigation (BECI) unit visited the site and confirmed that the contamination was still present.

Nantista allegedly submitted false final reports to DEC that misrepresented the size and extent of the gasoline to make it appear the site was clean. DEC investigators set up surveillance on the site, and hours before a final inspection several employees were observed removing gasoline from the wells so they would pass.

BECI investigators and the Richmond County District Attorney's Office obtained search warrants, one for Soil Mechanics Environmental Services, 3770 Merrick Road, Seaford, and another at Soil Mechanics Environmental Services, 245A Broadway, Amityville, and seized all materials related to the remediation project.

A yearlong review of the seized materials led to the charges, which carry fines of up to $95,000 and imprisonment of up to four years.

Nantista is scheduled to appear in Richmond County Court on March 8 to face the charges.

U.S. EPA Protects Bay Area Residents from Hazardous Lead Paint

The EPA announced 12 enforcement actions taken over the past year against renovation firms that failed to comply with federal lead-based paint rules. The settlements, totaling more than $80,000, involved renovation projects at schools and homes throughout the Bay Area.

Eleven violations involved firms seeking construction work at San Francisco Unified School District elementary schools without obtaining EPA certification to perform renovations involving lead-based paint. The settlements, totaling $42,000, were filed between March and October 2016. The school district now requires companies to be EPA-certified to bid on any similar future school projects.

“Lead paint is one of the most common sources of lead poisoning in children,” said Alexis Strauss, EPA's Acting Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “With its new policy, San Francisco Unified sets a strong example of how a school district can protect students from lead dust resulting from renovation.”

EPA required the firms to become properly certified and pay the following penalties:

  • Zolman Construction and Development, Inc. – $9,000
  • Transworld Construction, Inc. – $8,000
  • Rodan Builders, Inc. – $7,000
  • Arntz Builders, Inc. – $5,000
  • Jeff Luchetti Construction, Inc. – $3,000
  • Roebbelen Contracting, Inc. – $3,000
  • Pinguelo Construction, Inc. - $2,000
  • Rainbow Waterproofing and Restoration Co. – $2,000
  • Vila Construction Co. – $1,000
  • S.J. Amoroso Construction Co., Inc. – $1,000
  • Seven Island Painting, Inc. – $1,000

This month, EPA also reached a $38,990 settlement with Best Value Home Improvements, an Oakland-based general contractor. An EPA inspection found that, in working on four residential properties in Alameda, Millbrae, Oakland, and Piedmont between 2013 and 2014, the contractor failed to: