United States Brings Enforcement Action for Damage to 21 Acres of Wetlands in Virginia

November 20, 2023
The U.S. Department of Justice filed a complaint on behalf of EPA against Chameleon LLC and Gary V. Layne to address violations of the Clean Water Act (CWA) involving unauthorized discharges of dredged or fill material into wetlands adjacent to tributaries of the Chickahominy and Pamunkey Rivers in Ashland, Virginia.
The complaint alleges that Defendants conducted extensive clearing, grubbing, earth-moving, and draining activities in wetlands to prepare the site for development without any permit authorization, in violation of Sections 301 and 404 of the Clean Water Act.  EPA previously issued a Unilateral Administrative Order on November 23, 2021, that required Defendants to submit a plan to restore the impacted wetlands. Chameleon LLC and Mr. Layne failed to comply with that order.
“EPA remains committed to protecting our nation’s waters from harmful pollution, within the limits set by the Supreme Court,” said Assistant Administrator David M. Uhlmann for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “EPA will hold companies accountable when they seek to profit from illegally filling wetlands and imperiling the health of the Nation’s rivers and streams.”
"EPA is serious about enforcing regulations that protect the shared resources upon which we all rely," said Adam Ortiz, EPA Regional Administrator. "Wetlands play critical roles in our ecosystems and serve as buffers to climate change. Lawsuits like this are clear reminders that EPA and its federal and state partners will enforce the highest standards to ensure a sustainable future in which nature and communities can thrive together."
The United States filed suit in the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Virginia on November 13, 2023.  The lawsuit alleges that, beginning in 2018, the defendants discharged dredged or fill material into 21 acres of wetlands that abut and have a continuous surface connection to relatively permanent tributaries of the Chickahominy River and Pamunkey River, without obtaining federal permit coverage from the Army Corps of Engineers as required under the CWA.
EPA and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality have worked cooperatively throughout the development of this matter to identify and address the violations at the site.  The agencies are committed to protecting aquatic resources and resolving violations in ways that address both federal and state concerns.
In the lawsuit, the United States seeks relief that would address the violations, including appropriate penalties, restoration of the impacted wetlands, and mitigation for any irreversible environmental impacts.
EU Poison Center Compliance Date for Industrial Use Only Mixtures Approaching – Jan, 1 2024
Importers and downstream users of industrial use only mixtures need to be aware of the upcoming second poison centre compliance date. From 1 January 2024, all newly submitted poison centre notifications must comply with the harmonised information requirements outlined in Annex VIII to the CLP Regulation.
Industrial use only mixtures are exclusively used at industrial sites and are not available to consumer or professional users either as a final product or in diluted form through reformulation (a mixture in mixture (MiM)).
An example of an industrial use only mixture (as a final product) could be an automotive paint used only at industrial site and accessible only by industrial end users. While an example of an industrial use only mixture (as a MiM) would be the pigment used to make the automotive paint.
On the other hand, industrial use mixtures do serve industrial end users but may also find their way into the market for professional and/or consumer user types due to two factors. Either they are available as a final product for multiple user types, or, they are reformulated into other mixtures, which become available to consumer or professional users (in diluted form). The compliance date for harmonised notification of these industrial use mixtures was already in 2021 and must include all relevant user types.
If an industrial use only mixture is on the market and already notified via national submission systems before the 2024 compliance date, it may benefit from the transitional period until 1 January 2025. This means that after this date, all notifications, regardless of the use type, will need to notified in the harmonised format.
Companies need to know that during the transitional period, should any modifications be made to the mixture's composition, product identifiers, classification (for health or physical hazards), or toxicological information, this will require a notification in the harmonised format before introducing the modified mixture to the market.
The harmonised information requirements include the full chemical composition, the toxicological information, information about the product, and the unique formula identifier (UFI), according to Annex VIII to the CLP Regulation.
However, industrial use mixtures have the option of making a "limited submission", where compositional information from the Safety Data Sheet can be used. If this option is used, the notification must include a contact person who can provide around the clock rapid access to the complete compositional details in case of an incident.
All hazardous mixtures requiring a notification must have a UFI in both the PCN notification and on the product label so poison centres can establish the correct link between the product and the submitted data. However, if a hazardous mixture is used exclusively at an industrial site, the UFI may be indicated in Section 1.1 of the Safety Data Sheet only and not on the label. If the same mixture is available also for consumer or professional users, the UFI is required on the label to ensure the commitment to safety for those users.
To identify the main intended use of a mixture, the most relevant category is selected from the EuPCS. For example, if the mixture is primarily used for reformulation into other mixtures, choose "F – for further formulation." If the mixture has an end use, select the relevant category (e.g. automotive and aerospace coatings). If mixtures have multiple intended uses, it is possible to include secondary uses. In some cases, it may be difficult to assign a product category – if in doubt, please contact your industry association for any recommendations. It is also possible to request a change to the EuPCS through our Helpdesk.
EPA Fines Altoona, Iowa, Company for Alleged Chemical Risk Prevention Violations
Lineage Logistics LLC, the largest cold storage company in the U.S., has agreed to pay a $172,591 civil penalty to resolve alleged violations of the federal Clean Air Act’s chemical risk prevention provisions at its facility in Altoona, Iowa.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the facility uses over 10,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia, a regulated toxic substance, and failed to comply with regulations intended to protect the surrounding community from accidental releases.
EPA says the company failed to correctly document the worst-case scenario in its risk analysis, failed to comply with accidental release prevention requirements, and failed to document emergency response coordination with local authorities.
Anhydrous ammonia presents a significant health hazard because it is corrosive to the skin, eyes, and lungs. High levels of exposure may lead to choking and death. Fires or explosions may result if anhydrous ammonia is ignited.
“Compliance with chemical risk prevention regulations saves lives,” said David Cozad, director of EPA Region 7’s Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Division. “It is critical that companies that handle dangerous chemicals comply with the safety requirements of the Clean Air Act.”
EPA says that Lineage Logistics has taken the necessary steps to return the facility to compliance.
The Clean Air Act’s Risk Management Plan Rule regulations require facilities that use regulated toxic and/or flammable substances to develop a Risk Management Plan (RMP) that identifies the potential effects of a chemical accident, identifies steps a facility is taking to prevent an accident, and spells out emergency response procedures should an accident occur. These plans provide valuable information to local fire, police, and emergency response personnel to prepare for and respond to chemical emergencies in their community.
EPA has found that many regulated facilities are not adequately managing the risks they pose or ensuring the safety of their facilities in a way that is sufficient to protect surrounding communities. Approximately 150 catastrophic accidents occur per year at regulated facilities. These accidents result in fatalities, injuries, significant property damage, evacuations, sheltering in place, or environmental damage. Many more accidents with lesser effects also occur, demonstrating a clear risk posed by these facilities. Reducing risks from accidental releases of hazardous substances at industrial and chemical facilities is a top priority for EPA.
EPA identified Reducing Risks of Accidental Releases at Industrial and Chemical Facilities as a National Enforcement and Compliance Initiative for fiscal years 2024-2027.
$300,000 Penalty Levied To Settle Alleged Clean Air Act Violations
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has reached a settlement with Peerless Oil and Chemicals Inc for alleged violations of the Clean Air Act (CAA) at its Peñuelas, Puerto Rico facility. The settlement requires Peerless to inspect its gasoline storage tanks and monitor for potential emissions of hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) using an infrared camera for the next 12 months. In addition, Peerless must pay $287,756 in penalties.
“The settlement requires the company to regularly monitor for and stop the release of any major hazardous air pollutants, protecting communities near this facility,” said EPA Regional Administrator Lisa F. Garcia. “Residents will breathe cleaner air as a result of the upgrades and long-term monitoring that were done at this facility under this settlement.”
During inspections in 2018 and 2019, EPA found that Peerless had violated the CAA by not controlling HAPs from its petroleum storage and loading terminal in Peñuelas, Puerto Rico. EPA detected elevated levels of HAPs and other harmful gases called volatile organic compounds (VOCs) at the facility and identified problems with pollution control equipment for gasoline storage tanks such as faulty seals and seal gaps, and problems with the operation of the flare at the gasoline truck loading station.
In response to the EPA’s investigation, Peerless did extensive maintenance and repair work to upgrade its gasoline truck loading station flare and ensure compliance with emission control requirements for its internal floating roof and external floating roof gasoline storage tanks.
As part of the investigation, Peerless purchased a specialized infrared (IR) camera and a tablet capable of converting camera observations into parts per million (ppm) concentration values. The IR camera will be used as a screening tool to identify leaking components at storage tanks, enabling prompt corrective action and compliance with applicable regulations.
The settlement includes innovative approaches, such as requiring Peerless to conduct monthly tank inspections with the IR camera for a 12-month period, taking corrective action if any emissions are observed.
Peerless has developed a Standard Operating Procedure for operating the IR camera, a tank inspection checklist for camera operators, and has trained additional employees to use the IR camera.  Peerless agreed to pay a civil penalty and inspect its gasoline storage tanks monthly using an infrared (IR) camera to ensure compliance and prevent future emissions.
EPA Takes Action for Noncompliance with Ocean Dumping Act
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has settled an administrative penalty action issued against Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co., LLC for violations of the Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act ("MPRSA") (commonly known as the Ocean Dumping Act) relating to dredging for the Portsmouth Harbor Federal Navigation Project in a manner inconsistent with authorizations issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ("USACE"). Specifically, EPA alleged that on March 20, 2022, dredged material was dumped at a location outside of the authorized ocean disposal site in the Gulf of Maine near Isles of Shoals, New Hampshire.
Under the terms of the settlement, Great Lakes has agreed to pay a penalty of $92,500 and to undertake mitigation projects designed to prevent future "misdumps." The mitigation projects, which are estimated to cost more than $100,000, involve retrofitting Great Lakes' scows with an electronic "fencing" system and installing additional preventative measures such as secondary dump initiation buttons, which require two steps to initiate every dumping sequence.
"Proper disposal of dredged material plays a vital part in protecting our oceans," said EPA New England Administrator David W. Cash. "EPA works to enforce statutory provisions to protect the marine environment while maintaining safe maritime navigation."
Electronic fencing systems are designed to greatly reduce the element of human error, a common cause of MPRSA misdumping. Other than in emergency situations where the system needs to be overridden, the electronic fencing system prevents a scow from opening except in the approved area within the MPRSA-designated disposal site.
Federal agencies view misdumps such as in this case as significant violations because the failure to fully comply with the dredged material permit undermines the integrity of the Ocean Dumping Act's regulatory structure and may cause temporary or even permanent harm to the marine environment.
The Ocean Dumping Act authorizes EPA to designate dredged material disposal sites for long-term use, but only after extensive environmental studies and public participation, and each site has its own site management and monitoring plan. Disposal is strictly prohibited outside these sites because of the potential for irreparable harm to the marine environment, and the difficulty in assessing what those impacts may be. This action stemming from noncompliance with the Ocean Dumping Act was the result of a coordinated investigation by EPA and the USACE, which issues permits and contract specifications for the disposal of dredged material.
The passage of the Ocean Dumping Act in 1972 marked a major milestone in the protection of the marine environment. The Act bans ocean disposal of a number of materials (such as radiological, chemical, and biological warfare agents) and requires a permit for the ocean dumping of certain other materials. Today, most of the material ocean dumped from the United States is dredged material (sediments removed from the bottom of water bodies to maintain the nation's navigation system). The dredged material is extensively tested prior to disposal to ensure minimal potential for impacts to the marine environment.
Companies contracted to dredge harbors and other waterways are instructed to carefully follow all state and federal authorization requirements and contract specifications for both the removal and disposal of dredged sediments. To avoid misdump incidents such as in this case, contractors must ensure that the dredging, transportation, and disposal of sediments are carefully performed. Contractors and subcontractors must also ensure that that they are adjusting loading levels to match sea conditions; properly maintaining the equipment used for transporting dredged material; closely following site management and monitoring plans designed to avoid impacts to ecologically sensitive areas; and that dredging crews are well trained.
EPA and the USACE will continue to work closely with the dredging community to ensure that these practices are followed and to seek improvements in the dredging process whenever possible.
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