Fines Stack Up After Clean Air Act Violations

June 24, 2024
The EPA has reached a settlement with Missouri lead-acid battery manufacturer EnerSys Energy Products Inc. to resolve alleged violations of the federal Clean Air Act at the company’s Warrensburg and two Springfield facilities. The company is a subsidiary of EnerSys Inc., the world’s largest industrial battery manufacturer.
According to EPA, the company will pay a $430,500 civil penalty and spend an estimated $250,000 in compliance costs to resolve the alleged violations.
“In addition to allegedly violating the Clean Air Act, EnerSys Energy’s facilities are located in communities determined by EPA to be disproportionately affected by pollution,” said Jodi Bruno, acting director of EPA Region 7’s Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Division. “This settlement represents the commitment by EPA and the Biden administration to protecting all communities, especially those overburdened by environmental harm.”
In the settlement documents, EPA alleged that the company’s facilities emit lead, a hazardous air pollutant, as part of their manufacturing process. During 2022 and 2023 inspections at the Warrensburg and Springfield facilities, and after reviewing documents submitted to EPA by the company, EPA determined that the company failed to report to EPA when the facilities’ emission control equipment operated outside of the appropriate pressure range.
Further, the company failed to report what corrective actions the facilities took in response to these occurrences. EPA says that these reporting obligations exist to reduce the possibility of a severe failure of emission control equipment, which could result in excess lead emissions.
EPA identified the community surrounding one of EnerSys Energy’s Springfield facilities as a potentially sensitive area with respect to air toxics cancer risk and releases, Superfund and hazardous waste proximity, and wastewater discharges. The other two facilities were also identified as being close to pollution sources. EPA is strengthening enforcement in such communities to address adverse human health or environmental effects of industrial operations on vulnerable populations.
CSB Outlines Initial Findings in Investigation of 2023 Ethylene Oxide Release
The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) is examining reactive chemical hazards and emergency pressure-relief systems as part of its investigation of an explosion that resulted in the release of more than 31,000 pounds of ethylene oxide (EtO) at a Dow plant in Louisiana last year. The facility is an industrial park comprising 23 production units where more than 50 intermediate and specialty chemical products, including EtO, are manufactured. Events that led to the release on July 14, 2023, include high vibration in a reflux pump, upsets to the EtO finishing process, and multiple explosions and fires, according to CSB’s investigation update.
The plant was operating under normal conditions on the night of the incident until high vibration triggered the automatic shutdown of one of two reflux pumps operating at the time, the CSB report explains. Dow personnel returned the pump to operation within a couple of minutes, though its vibrations remained higher than normal. Over the next couple of hours, “numerous upsets” to the EtO finishing process triggered high-level alarms in the reflux drum, CSB notes. Operators worked to stabilize the level in the drum until an explosion occurred in its vicinity. The initial explosion was followed by a fire and another explosion of the reflux drum itself, which was about half full of liquid EtO at the time. No injuries were linked to the incident, but it caused substantial damage to the plant and hundreds of residents living within a half-mile of the facility were ordered to shelter in place that night.
“At the time of the incident, the reflux drum was equipped with an emergency pressure-relief valve, but the valve was unable to prevent the reflux drum from exploding,” CSB’s report states.
The agency’s findings so far have prompted investigators to further examine the design of the reactive material emergency pressure-relief system as well as maintenance procedures and practices.
CSB’s investigation is ongoing. More information can be found in the agency’s press release, and future updates will be available via the incident page on the CSB website.
EPA Finalizes Disinfectant Residue Test Methods for Surfaces
EPA released test methods for detecting residues of two classes of disinfectants on hard surfaces after rinsing with water: quaternary ammonium compounds and phenolic compounds. These classes of chemicals are often found in products that make disinfectant claims, according to the agency. “Estimating the amount of disinfectant residue after rinsing a treated surface, like cutting boards and countertops, with water is an important step in refining dietary risk assessments for disinfectant products that may come in contact with food,” EPA states in press release.
A potable water rinse (PWR), EPA explains, may be necessary to remove potentially harmful chemical residues from a surface after disinfectants have been applied. If EPA lacks data for specific chemicals when evaluating dietary risk, the agency assumes that 100 percent of disinfectant residues on a surface will contact food, even after the surface is rinsed. According to EPA, this practice may lead to overly conservative risk assessments and mitigation measures that are more protective than necessary, compared to if chemical-specific data was used.
“Based on their chemical properties, [quaternary ammonium compounds and phenolic compounds] represent the range of disinfectant residues that could remain after a PWR,” EPA states. After rinsing, quaternary ammonium compounds are expected to leave the most residue on a surface, and the phenolic compounds are expected to leave the least. Users may modify the test methods developed for quaternary ammonium and phenolic compounds for other chemical classes that are active ingredients in products requiring PWRs. These methods will serve as guidance for residue studies when registering new and existing products and enable EPA to perform more accurate dietary risk assessments.
EPA’s finalized guidance for analyzing disinfectant residues on hard, non-porous surfaces after rinsing may be found on More information is available in EPA’s press release.
Illinois Contractor Exposes Employees to Deadly Fall Hazards at Construction Sites
Federal workplace safety inspectors found an Illinois construction contractor — cited seven times since 2020 — again exposing employees doing framing work to the risk of deadly falls from elevation at two homes under construction in Hanover Park in December 2023 and February 2024.
Inspectors with the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration observed employees of Maestro Construction Inc. working at heights up to 20 feet without adequate fall protection. Inspectors reported that some workers put on fall protection safety gear but wore it incorrectly, making it useless. The agency also learned the Bolingbrook company failed to certify that employees had been trained in fall hazards or the required use of personal protective equipment. In addition, inspectors found damaged electrical cords in use.
"Contractors like Maestro Construction that willfully ignore federal safety standards for fall protection are endangering the lives and well-being of their employees," said OSHA Area Director Jacob Scott in Naperville, Illinois. "Despite being cited seven times since 2020, this company continues to show a callous disregard for their employees' safety, and we will continue to hold them accountable for their defiance of regulations."
OSHA identified the violations in December and February at two nearby worksites on Greenbrook Court, and issued Maestro Construction two willful, two repeat and two serious violations and one other-than-serious violation. The agency has proposed $264,407 in penalties.
The agency cited Maestro Construction four times in 2023 for fall-related violations.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 2022, 1,056 construction workers died on the job, with 423 of those fatalities related to falls from elevation, slips or trips.
Violations of the Clean Air Act and Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act Lead to Fines
The EPA recently reached a settlement with Electronic Products Industries, LLC, of Newburyport, Mass. for alleged violations of EPA's Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) reporting requirements under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) and the process hazard review (PHR) requirement of the General Duty Clause of the Clean Air Act.
The alleged violations stem from Electronic Products’ use of anhydrous ammonia. Electronic Products had not performed a PHR to identify hazards from its use of anhydrous ammonia and failed to timely submit Toxics Release Inventory forms for anhydrous ammonia as required, thereby depriving people of their right to know about the presence of this toxic chemical in their community. The settlement requires Electronic Products to pay a combined cash penalty of $117,647 to resolve these alleged violations.
Exposure to high levels of ammonia in air may be irritating to skin, eyes, throat, and lungs, and cause coughing and burns. Lung damage and death may occur after exposure to very high concentrations of ammonia. Some people with asthma may be more sensitive to breathing ammonia than others.
"Citizens have a right to know about dangerous, toxic substances in their neighborhood," said EPA New England Regional Administrator David W. Cash. "There are homes, schools, businesses, a fire station, and a church near this facility – which is less than two miles from downtown Newburyport. EPA's action underscores the importance of companies understanding the hazards of using hazardous substances like anhydrous ammonia and using that knowledge to undertake safe handling and management practices to protect public safety."
The EPA alleged that Electronic Products violated CAA Section 112(r)'s General Duty Clause (GDC) by failing to identify hazards related to its use of anhydrous ammonia at the Facility. Specifically, Electronic Products failed to conduct a process hazard review ("PHR") for its ammonia process. Electronic Products hired a consultant who completed a process hazard review shortly after being informed by EPA of the requirement.
The General Duty Clause aims to prevent the accidental release of extremely hazardous chemicals and minimize the consequences of any such releases. Under this provision, owners and operators of facilities that store or use extremely hazardous chemicals have the duty, among others, to identify hazards that may result from a release and document this analysis in a PHR.
The EPA alleged that Electronic Products violated EPCRA Section 313(a) and its implementing regulations by failing to timely submit TRI reporting forms for anhydrous ammonia used at the Facility in calendar years 2019, 2020, and 2021. Electronic Products promptly filed its missing TRI forms for ammonia after being informed of the deficiencies.
Under federal TRI regulations, companies that use certain listed toxic chemicals must report their releases of those chemicals each year to EPA. This information serves as the basis for the Toxic Release Inventory, which is a collection of data that can be readily reviewed by communities, government, and industry. With the information being publicly available, companies have an incentive to reduce harmful chemical use and improve their environmental performance. TRI reporting informs surrounding communities about a facility's toxic chemicals that could potentially harm public health and the environment and offers transparency.
Electronic Products produces both glass-to-metal seals and high-temperature co-fired ceramics for use in semiconductor products. This case stems from information learned about the facility in conjunction with an inspection by EPA in February 2023. Electronic Products cooperated with the EPA throughout the enforcement process and quickly came into compliance with the relevant statutes following EPA's inspection.
News Links
Trivia Question of the Week