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U.S. EPA’s enforcement efforts yield nearly $3 billion in environmental improvements in California in 2005
Release Date: 11/15/2005
Contact Information: Mark Merchant 415-947-4297
SAN FRANCISCO – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s enforcement program secured nearly $3 billion in on-the-ground environmental improvements in fiscal year 2005.
Monumental settlements reached to improve the state’s stormwater issues, sewers and contaminated groundwater will benefit human health and the environment for millions of Californians for years to come.
The EPA took 265 enforcement actions against businesses and government organizations throughout the state in fiscal year 2005 for numerous air, water, hazardous waste, community right-to-know and pesticide violations. The $3 billion in environmental improvements constitutes a huge increase from 2004, when the EPA secured $63 million in improvements.
As part of the agency’s national effort to improve stormwater and groundwater, the EPA’s settlements with the cities of Los Angeles and San Diego and Orange County committed the metropolitan areas to more than $2.9 billion in projects to improve sewer and wastewater systems. Large settlements were also reached to clean up contaminated groundwater at Superfund sites in southern California.
“This year’s enforcement actions will result in major metropolitan sewer systems making long-deferred and multi-billion dollar investments in infrastructure. In addition, we have polluters conducting multi-million cleanups of contaminated groundwater at some of our largest Superfund sites,” said Wayne Nastri, administrator of the EPA’s Pacific Southwest Office in San Francisco. “All told, our actions will significantly improve public health and ecosystems throughout the state.”
Below are a number of agency enforcement highlights for California in 2005:
• Under the terms of a $2 billion agreement, the city of Los Angeles will rebuild at least 488 miles of sewer lines, clean 2,800 miles of sewers annually, enhance its program to control restaurant grease discharges, increase the sewage system's capacity, and plan for future expansion. The city will also spend $8.5 million on environmental projects to restore streams and wetlands and to capture and treat polluted storm drain flows. With approximately 6,500 miles of sewer lines serving almost four million residents, the city operates the largest sewage collection system in the country.
• In Orange County, the sanitation district will spend $600 million upgrading its two sewage treatment plants to achieve full secondary treatment by 2012. The voluntary upgrade will result in discharge reductions of approximately 9,4000 metric tons of solids and approximately 14,700 metric tons of biological oxygen-depleting nutrients demand. The districts 10-year plan includes spending $450 million on sewer pipe upgrades to prevent future spills and overflows.
• EPA, Surfrider Foundation and San Diego Baykeeper reached a $187 million settlement with the city of San Diego that requires improvements in the city’s sewage collection system. The EPA issued an administrative order three years ago that resulted in the city enhancing its sewer collection system maintenance and making capital improvements. All parties will continue to work on a long-term agreement to prevent future spills of raw sewage from San Diego’s system.
• Saint-Gobain Containers Inc. agreed to resolve Clean Air Act violations at its Madera, Calif., facility, reducing air emissions by 400 tons per year. The company agreed to spend $13.8 million to install and operate air pollution control equipment and will also spend $1.2 million to reduce pollution as part of a supplemental environmental project. This precedential settlement establishes the most stringent NOx limit for a container glass furnace in the country.
• A.P. Moller-Maersk Company of Denmark, pled guilty and was sentenced to pay a $500,000 fine in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. Moller-Maersk, which operates a fleet of over 200 vessels worldwide, was also ordered to develop and implement a fleet-wide environmental compliance program. The guilty plea was the result of a criminal investigation conducted by the EPA and US Coast Guard into waste oil in the overboard piping of the Motor Vessel Jane Maersk. Also, the investigation uncovered evidence of false entries in the ship’s oil record book. The false entries concerned the operation of the ship’s incinerator which, in part, is used to burn waste oil sludge. In a related court action, the ship’s second engineer was sentenced to four months’ community confinement for his role in concealing and destroying key documents related to the investigation.
• The U.S. Department of Justice announced criminal charges in Los Angeles last year against Evergreen International, S.A, one of many Evergreen-related companies involved in the container ship business. Under the terms of a plea agreement, Evergreen paid $25 million, the largest-ever amount for a case involving deliberate vessel pollution, and plead guilty to felony charges brought in Los Angeles; Newark, NJ; Portland, OR; Seattle; and Charleston, SC. Evergreen pleaded guilty to 24 felony counts and one misdemeanor-five counts from each federal district involved in the case-for concealing the deliberate, illegal discharge of waste oil and for a negligent discharge in the Columbia River. The charges include making false statements, obstruction of Coast Guard inspections, failing to maintain an accurate Oil Record Book, and one negligent violation of the Clean Water Act relating to the discharge in the Columbia River. Following the guilty pleas, U.S. District Judge Terry J. Hatter, Jr. ordered the company to pay $25 million to be divided equally among the five judicial districts involved. Of this amount, $10 million will be directed to environmental community service projects in each district. Note: Both of the shipping cases mentioned above led to worldwide compliance improvements for both Maersk and Evergreen.
• The EPA reached a $78.5 million settlement with the city of San Bernardino, Calif., the California Department of Toxic Substances Control and the U.S. Army for the cleanup of the city’s water supply as part of the overall Newmark Superfund Site cleanup. More than 25 percent of the water supply for San Bernardino has been contaminated by volatile organic compounds such as solvents. The settlement resolves claims against the Army for alleged groundwater contamination from Army operations in the area during World War II. This cleanup accounts for over 90 percent of the volume of all contaminated groundwater, as reported by the agency in 2005. In March, 2005, the city and EPA announced the completion of a $28 million treatment system that will treat 4.75 billion gallons per year of contaminated water that can be used as drinking water by the 185,000 residents living in the area.
• EPA settlements for the San Gabriel Valley Superfund Site provided for over $26 million of work and reimbursement of over $9 million in response costs. One settlement requires two companies to spend over $26 million to build a groundwater cleanup system to remove the contaminants from the groundwater. This settlement also requires these companies to spend $468,750 on an environmental project at a former duck farm, pay a $125,000 penalty and pay $800,000 in past costs. A separate settlement requires eleven potentially responsible parties to pay over $14.3 million to reimburse the EPA’s response costs at the site. Over one million water customers are affected in the San Gabriel Valley.
Please go to www.epa.gov/region09 for a full description of the EPA’s enforcement cases throughout California, Arizona, Nevada, Hawaii and the Pacific Islands in 2005. For information on the EPA’s national enforcement summary for 2005, go to: https://www.epa.gov/compliance/data/results/annual/fy2005.html