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EPA RELEASES 1997: COMPLIANCE ASSURANCES RESULTS: CRIMINAL ENFORCEMENT AND POLLUTION PREVENTION EFFORTS SET RECORDS
Release Date: 03/15/1998
Contact Information: Alice Kaufman, EPA Press Office, (617) 918-1064, Home: (978) 369-7140
Boston - The New England office of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today the results of its 1997 efforts to achieve better environmental performance by industry -- both through its traditional enforcement program and, for the first time ever, by releasing information on the scope of EPA's pollution prevention programs and other efforts to assist industry to cut pollution through voluntary compliance strategies.
1997 Enforcement Tally
- New records in criminal enforcement -- more indictments, convictions and sentences for more than twice as many individuals and corporations than ever before in the history of the region's criminal enforcement program
- 13 criminal sentences were doled out, totaling jail or probation sentences of nearly 28 years;
- 26 criminal cases were referred to the U.S. Department of Justice for prosecution;
- the largest environmental criminal fine in New England history and the largest Clean Water Act criminal fine in America in 1997 was collected -- $9.5 million;
- Brought 77 cases against public agencies with penalties proposed of nearly $1.3 million, which included cases filed against the Massachusetts Military Reservation on Cape Cod, the city of Haverhill for toxic waste disposal problems, and numerous municipalities across New England for violations of safe drinking water and wastewater discharge standards;
- 380 civil enforcement actions undertaken;
- Collected nearly $1.5 million in non-criminal fines;
- Proposed penalties of another $3 million in administrative enforcement proceedings;
- Polluters at federal Superfund sites paid a total of $61.1 million in cleanup costs, penalties, and other environmental projects that go beyond what is required by law.
- Co-sponsored 86 pollution prevention and compliance assistance workshops and training sessions, and made more than 200 presentations, with particular emphasis in four targeted industrial and public sectors: metal finishers, printers, auto repair and body shops, and municipalities;
- Responded to more than 11,200 requests for compliance assistance from calls to the agency on its toll- free assistance hotlines and other outreach efforts;
- Offered onsite pollution prevention technical assistance at 84 industrial facilities;
- Efforts from EPA's solid waste team resulted in 139,000 tons of solid waste being recycled or reused, rather than disposed of in New England;
- Nearly another 11 tons of used computers and electronic goods were collected as part of a pilot household collection project in Somerville, MA, to demanufacture and/or recycle these items;
- EPA issued more than $2.1 million in direct grants and cooperative agreements to support pollution prevention activities by states and organizations, resulting in more than 200 workshops, training sessions, and on-site assistance visits.
"For too long EPA and the state environmental agencies focused almost exclusively on enforcement. We are demonstrating that we can walk and chew gum at the same time - enforce and assist, as appropriate," said John P. DeVillars, EPA's New England administrator.
"The resources we have added to EPA's criminal investigation unit over the last two years have born substantial fruit," DeVillars said. "EPA's most aggressive enforcement efforts should be focused on rooting out criminal behavior, and that's exactly what we've done. But at the same time we're also demonstrating that we can achieve significant environmental progress by using carrots as well as sticks. Our efforts to assist those in industry who want to do the right thing are clearly paying substantial dividends."
Supplemental Environmental Projects
In 1997, EPA funneled more than $1,202,000 through supplemental environmental projects (SEPs) in enforcement case settlements into community-based environmental efforts ranging from the development of neighborhood parks to the installation of state-of-the-art pollution prevention technologies. These funds would otherwise have gone to the general treasury and are the product of an aggressive and targeted enforcement program.
"The use of SEPs is fast becoming a tool for reinvesting in our communities," said Ira Leighton, Director of EPA's Office of Environmental Stewardship. "EPA's strong presence ensures that violations will be uncovered and that violators will be made to pay fines which, whenever possible, will flow back to environmental improvements in the community."
In 25 separate agreements, polluters at federal Superfund sites agreed to pay more than $26.8 million to cover costs incurred by the government in cleaning up these sites in New England. This figure includes the collection of allowable penalties for the government's involvement at these sites. EPA also leveraged an additional $34.3 million in cleanup work performed at Superfund sites by responsible parties and other investments by these parties for projects that yielded environmental benefits beyond the cleanup itself. Agreements were signed at four sites that will encourage the redevelopment and reuse of those properties.
The agency's overall enforcement presence climbed to more than 1,000 field inspections in 1997, sending a message to the regulated community that EPA staff are aggressively surveying sites and facilities in all six New England states. Nearly 400 of those inspections were conducted in the region's urban centers, with 129 of those in EPA priority urban areas: Boston, Greater Lawrence, and New Bedford, Massachusetts; Providence, RI, and Hartford, CT.
"We have concentrated our enforcement efforts in densely populated urban areas where risks to public health may be greatest," said Sam Silverman, co-manager of EPA's enforcement program. "More than 60% of our inspection and enforcement efforts were directed towards public agencies, aquatic ecosystems, and targeted New England industries."
Public Agency Enforcement Initiative
EPA's ambitious, ongoing initiative to target public agencies for environmental compliance has yielded a total of 255 cases since launching the effort the summer of 1993. In this past year EPA brought 77 new cases against public agencies with penalties proposed of nearly $1.3 million, which included cases filed against the Massachusetts Military Reservation on Cape Cod, the city of Haverhill for toxic waste disposal problems, and numerous municipalities across New England for violations of safe drinking water and wastewater discharge standards.
Highlights of a Successful Enforcement Year
- Using an emergency authority provision of the Safe Drinking Water Act, EPA ordered the National Guard to cease artillery training exercises at the Massachusetts Military Reservation. The base sits on top of Cape Cod's sole aquifer that provides drinking water to some 500,000 citizens. This is the first time EPA has used this authority to protect groundwater under an active military range and has been the impetus for other states to investigate similar actions, and for the military to review its practices at other bases.
- A $9.5 million agreement was reached with those responsible for the 828,000 gallon January 1996 oil spill off the Rhode Island coast. This case is the third largest Oil Pollution Act criminal fine in U.S. history, and the largest Clean Water Act criminal fine brought in the country last year. More than half of the $8.5 million in fines will finance federal wetlands conservation programs. Eklof Marine Corp. has agreed to pay $3.5 million in federal fines, $3.5 million in state fines, a $1.5 million fine directed toward the Nature Conservancy to acquire conservation land along the coast of Rhode Island, and $1 million for vessel improvements and remedial measures.
- An enforcement sweep of the public works facilities operated by the city of Haverhill, Massachusetts, resulted in EPA citing the city for numerous violations of waste management laws, and uncovered a lack of planning in the event of chemical and/or oil spills. The city agreed to pay fines of $17,000 while investing another $104,000 to establish a permanent household hazardous waste collection facility. This project will cut down, if not eliminate, the illegal disposal of toxic wastes along roadsides or disposed of as trash.
- EPA filed suit against Raymark Industries, Inc. a former asbestos brake manufacturer in Stratford, Connecticut, to recoup $200 million in past and future federal cleanup costs of polluted soils at the facility and other locations where contamination has spread. The suit also seeks to force the judicial sale of the Raymark property so that redevelopment efforts at the site can be realized. Raymark is a federal Superfund site.
- For two oil spills into the Charles River, Boston University will pay a cash penalty of $253,000 and invest another $518,000 in local pollution prevention activities. This marks the largest federal enforcement penalty ever assessed against a higher education institution in the country. The more serious of the two oil spills occurred around the Boston University Bridge in January 1996 stemming from a slow, chronic leak from an underground storage tank at B.U.'s School for the Arts Building. B.U. recently installed a storm drain liner to prevent oil-contaminated groundwater from discharging to the river through cracks in storm drain pipes, as required in the settlement. B.U. is installing a petroleum product recovery system around the site to remediate the groundwater that has been contaminated as a result of the leak.
- EPA's investigation into the illegal import of more than 246 tons of CFCs into the United States from Canada by City Sales Ltd. broke new ground in environmental enforcement in New England. Three defendants have pleaded guilty in Maine to federal charges under the Clean Air Act and U.S. Customs laws -- the first such prosecutions in New England. This is the fourth largest CFC smuggling case in the United States. The company principals face up to 85 years in jail and more than $4 million in criminal fines.
- EPA reached a $2 million settlement at the Landfill and Resource Recovery (L&RR) Superfund site in North Smithfield, RI, which includes a $525,000 investment by the settling parties for the acquisition of wetlands and/or conservation easements in the Blackstone River National Heritage Corridor. The corridor, which includes about 380,000 acres, is a string of parks, museums, historic buildings and waterways, and its expansion and preservation is one of Rhode Island's highest environmental priorities. The Department of the Interior will receive $200,000 for damages to natural resources at the Superfund site and will direct these funds to restore wetlands. This settlement is one of the first agreements of its kind at a Superfund site where settlement monies are used for a Supplemental Environmental Project.
New England businesses are increasingly joining EPA voluntary compliance programs in efforts to achieve superior environmental results. Companies are overhauling factory processes, making substitutes for highly toxic chemicals used in processing, and employing new technologies to prevent pollution.
- With assistance from EPA's NEEATeam, wastewater treatment plants in Waterbury, Springfield, Hinesburg, Middlebury, and Richmond, Vermont, have made substantial low-cost efficiency and pollution prevention upgrades thereby dramatically reducing BOD (biochemical oxygen demand) in their effluent, and eliminating what had been high numbers of violations at those plants. BOD reductions are important to maintaining adequate dissolved oxygen in the water to support fish and other aquatic life.
- EPA's CLEAN program provided compliance and pollution prevention assistance to Granite State Plating in Rochester, N.H., a small electroplating job shop, that then installed "a no discharge wastewater treatment system@ eliminating all wastewater discharges and reducing water use by 95%, and another 95% reduction in hazardous waste generation.
- C.M. Almy & Sons Inc. (CMA), a Pittsfield, Maine metal finisher, is reaping benefits from its investment in pollution prevention. CMA boasts a 50% reduction in cyanide bath filter waste, a 90% recovery of silver plating residues, and the elimination of halogenated solvent use, while saving $11,000. EPA's CLEAN program gave CMA an opportunity to get a no cost, low risk compliance assessment while ensuring that its operations qualify for less burdensome and less costly federal rules.
- Four graduates from EPA's Venture Capital Forums secured more than $4 million in first round financing to start up environmental technology ventures. EPA's Center for Environmental Industry and Technology (CEIT) is pioneering programs that assist in the development and promotion of environmental technologies that are more efficient and effective. These include the verification of untested environmental products and the streamlining of technology permitting processes.
- After attending a meeting sponsored by EPA's NEEATeam, the owner of Federal Metal Finishing in Charlestown, MA, installed new equipment to the facility's plating lines allowing for the rinse water to be recycled rather than treated and disposed. A one time $6,000 investment translated into $20,000 per year savings in costs and a reduction in water usage of six gallons per minute.