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Release Date: 10/25/1999
Contact Information: Amy Miller, EPA Press Office (617-918-1042)

BOSTON - A Fitchburg chemical manufacturer saved up to $500,000 by voluntarily disclosing violations of the federal law regulating hazardous waste management and other environmental laws.

In an agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, ChemDesign Corporation promised to pay $13,829 for eight violations of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. The company, which is owned by Bayer Corp., could have faced proposed penalties of up to $500,000 if it had not disclosed the violations on its own. The $13,829 penalty represents only the economic benefit to the company for its violations; the entire gravity portion of the penalty has been waived.

ChemDesign acknowledged its violations in an Oct. 1, 1998, letter to EPA-New England. The company, located at 99 Development Road, has since corrected the violations and come into compliance with these federal and state requirements.

"ChemDesign should be commended for stepping up to the plate. The company audited its compliance, reported violations and corrected them," said John P. DeVillars, EPA's New England Administrator. "We take it seriously that the company violated environmental laws, but ChemDesign voluntarily looked for and corrected its mistakes. We took this into consideration when calculating the penalty."

In February 1998 and September 1998 letters, which were part of EPA's Chemical Industry Audit Project, EPA-New England invited ChemDesign and about 200 other facilities in the chemical industry in Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts to perform environmental audits and self-disclose violations. The letters explained that EPA would defer inspections focused in this sector to allow time for EPA and the states to conduct compliance assistance workshops and mailings and companies to conduct audits. EPA deferred inspections until Oct. 1, 1998, for large businesses with more than 100 employees and until Jan. 1, 1999, for small businesses with 100 employees or less. ChemDesign was one of seven New England firms that self-reported violations to EPA as part of this project.

The letters also described EPA's Audit and Small Business policies, which allow the agency to eliminate or substantially reduce penalties for companies that report violations. Under these policies, the agency can eliminate all of the penalty except for the economic benefit the company has received from the violation if the company conducts an environmental audit and self reports the violations to EPA.

A company must take certain actions to be eligible for consideration. Among them, it must make a prompt disclosure of violations; quickly correct violations; act to prevent recurrent violations; and remedy any harm that occurred as a result of violations. EPA encourages other companies to take advantage of the Agency's Audit Policy. The Audit Policy does not cover criminal violations or violations that resulted in actual significant harm to public health or the environment.

The consent agreement between ChemDesign and EPA cites the company for failure to properly inspect hazardous waste areas and to properly label and date tanks of hazardous waste. It also says ChemDesign failed to equip tanks with controls to prevent overfilling and to have adequate secondary containment for a tank. Finally, the company failed to maintain a complete contingency plan and to institute a leak detection and repair program for tanks.