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EPA New England Announces Strong Enforcement Results for 2002

Release Date: 03/24/2003
Contact Information: EPA New England Announces Strong Enforcement Results for 2002

BOSTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's New England Office today announced strong results in its enforcement program last year, including the highest penalty totals in nearly a decade and a record number of self-disclosures under the agency's self-audit program.

The agency's regional office negotiated 47 administrative penalty settlements and 22 judicial settlements totaling $4.3 million. Additionally, EPA New England's enforcement efforts required $203 million of expenditures by violators to come into compliance – more than double the $88 million of work required in 2001.

EPA New England also posted a record year in negotiating innovative environmental projects – activities not required by the law – in settling enforcement cases. More than $9 million of so-called Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEPs) were funded last year through enforcement settlements, many of them focused on public health problems such as indoor air pollution, asthma and childhood lead poisoning.

At the same time, more facilities than ever before voluntarily audited their own environmental operations or established programs to prevent, detect and correct environmental violations. Last year the region had 377 disclosures of environmental problems that were found and fixed due to self audits by facilities. The vast majority of the disclosures were at municipal facilities, primarily public works garages, and college/university facilities.

"EPA New England has shown once again it will not hesitate to take aggressive action against companies and facilities that pollute the environment," said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA's New England Office. "We've also followed through on our commitment to be smarter and more strategic in our enforcement programs, which has enabled us to achieve broader compliance and more environmental and public health benefits at less cost."

"I'm especially pleased that so many cases are being resolved with projects that are improving the communities where environmental violations took place," Varney added. "From cleaner, low-emitting school buses in Boston, to safer school laboratories in Providence, these projects are leading to tangible environmental and public health improvements all across the region."

Among the highlights of EPA New England's enforcement and compliance assistance programs last year:

    • Strong Overall Enforcement: The agency's overall enforcement presence remained strong with 527 inspections and the issuance of 47 administrative penalty settlements and 22 judicial settlements totaling $4.3 million, a $1 million jump from 2001 and the highest total since 1994. The region also referred 34 cases to the U.S. Department of Justice for civil prosecution, the highest number of referrals since 1990.
    • Strong Criminal Enforcement: Cases handled by EPA's Criminal Investigation Division for New England led to 21 convictions with total sentences of 10 years incarceration, 28 years probation and fines of $3.4 million. Among those cases was the conviction and sentencing of a New Hampshire apartment manager for violating federal lead paint disclosure laws – the first such criminal conviction in the country. The case was initiated after a two-year-old died from lead paint exposure in a Manchester, NH apartment.
    • Supplemental Environmental Projects: In addition to increasing penalty totals, EPA NE's enforcement efforts led to a number of innovative settlements involving Supplemental Environmental Projects. EPA negotiated 22 SEPs last year worth more than $9.5 million, more than double the $4.7 million of projects done in 2001. (Violators and EPA negotiate the projects that will be done. Typically the projects result in reduced penalties.) Among the largest SEPs was an agreement by Waste Management of Massachusetts, a Boston trash hauler, to spend $1.4 million to install diesel particle traps on 200 Boston school buses and purchase low-sulfur diesel fuel for the buses. The company also agreed to spend $1.2 million to create a waterfront park near Chelsea Creek in East Boston. The case stemmed from Clean Air Act violations by the Boston trash hauler – specifically, illegal releases of ozone-depleting pollutants into the air by improperly crushing discarded refrigerators and air conditioners.
    • Combining Enforcement and Compliance Assistance: EPA New England continued to target specific industry sectors for "dual-track" enforcement activity and compliance assistance – among those, the metal finishing industry, colleges and universities, municipal and state Departments of Public Works and Transportation, and facilities and construction sites needing stormwater runoff permits. Last year EPA NE's Assistance and Pollution Prevention Office conducted nearly 500 workshops, mailings, talks to industry groups and on-site visits, reaching an estimated 26,000 people.
    • Achieving Compliance Through Self Audits: Another major focus last year was using EPA's audit policy to improve compliance in specific sectors – in particular, colleges and universities and municipal public works facilities. The audit policy is designed to encourage facilities to find and correct environmental problems themselves, so EPA can focus its limited enforcement resources elsewhere. Under EPA's audit policy, if a facility finds an environmental violation and immediately corrects it and discloses the violation to EPA, they are eligible for reduced or eliminated penalties. Last year the region had 377 disclosures of environmental problems that were found and fixed. More than 350 of the disclosures were at municipal facilities and college/university facilities. EPA New England accounted for more than 40 percent of all the audit disclosures found nationally last year under EPA's audit program.
    • Focus on Urban Environmental Problems: Much of EPA NE's enforcement activity is targeted on the region's urban areas, where serious environmental problems effect larger populations. Last year the region inspected 64 properties affecting over 20,000 housing units for possible lead paint disclosure violations. Some of those inspections resulted in enforcement actions, including a civil penalty action against a Somerset, MA-sandblasting company for failing to test and identify lead contaminated waste during and after renovations at a Fall River dance studio building and the unprecedented criminal conviction of the New Hampshire building manager for failing to notify tenants of possible lead paint threats. Alarmed by skyrocketing asthma rates in cities such as Boston, the region focused major attention on reducing diesel air pollution, including dozens of inspections last year to curb excessive idling by diesel buses. One of those cases resulted in a penalty action against the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority for idling violations at four of its Boston-area yards.
    • Protecting Water Quality: With more than a third of New England's streams and rivers still unsafe for swimming, EPA NE focused much attention on improving compliance with stormwater runoff protection requirements. In addition to conducting 28 workshops to help municipalities and builders understand new stormwater rules, the region carried out dozens of inspections, most of them at construction sites. Among the biggest cases was a settlement with Boston Sand & Gravel, which agreed to pay a $897,000 penalty for stormwater violations at several Boston-area facilities. The region also cited numerous builders in Massachusetts and New Hampshire for stormwater violations. EPA New England also negotiated enforcement settlements with half-dozen municipalities for illegal discharges from combined sewer overflows – among those, an agreement with Waterbury, CT that will result in $8 million of sewer upgrades along the Naugatuck River.
    • Protecting Air Quality: Many of EPA New England's largest enforcement cases stemmed from violations of the Clean Air Act. Among the largest cases: After testing and maintenance violations were found at numerous gas stations, Cumberland Farms agreed to spend more than $2 million upgrading gasoline vapor recovery systems at 42 gas stations in New England, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The Canton-based company also agreed to pay a $90,000 fine; After violations were found at its bulk fuel storage terminal in New Haven, CT, Gulf Oil agreed to spend $421,000 on capital improvements to its fuel storage tanks in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Jersey and Pennsylvania; Last spring, EPA New England ordered the Mystic Station power plant in Everett to take immediate steps to reduce the amount of soot and other particulate pollutants coming out of its smoke stacks. The order led to new ignition equipment being installed on three of the facility's older generators and the use of a lower sulfur, cleaner-burning fuel oil for powering the generators. The order came after years of complaints by Greater Boston residents about Mystic's smoke, which contains particulate pollution that can trigger asthma and other respiratory illnesses.