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EPA Fines NYC & Chief Medical Examiner for Hazardous Waste Violations

Release Date: 10/29/2004
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(#04170) NEW YORK, N.Y. -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently issued a complaint and is seeking $67,511 in fines against New York City and its Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) Exit EPA disclaimerfor hazardous waste violations under the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). EPA uncovered the violations during an August 2003 inspection of the medical examiner's facility at 520 First Avenue in Manhattan. The OCME conducts investigations, including autopsies, into the deaths of people in the city who died in any suspicious or unusual manner.

EPA found that the facility was storing hazardous waste without a permit and disposing of it illegally. The inspection also revealed a failure to designate certain wastes as hazardous waste. These were among several violations at OCME of RCRA, the federal law that governs the safe handling of hazardous and solid waste.

"The lack of compliance with federal waste management rules by the Medical Examiner's office put its employees at risk and increased the potential risk to the environment," concluded EPA Regional Administrator Jane M. Kenny. "Full compliance with federal rules will help ensure this facility is operated safely in the future."

In September 2003, the Agency formally notified the City of New York and the OCME that the facility was operating in violation of RCRA regulations. The types of violations ranged from a variety of wastes stored in several locations at the facility without emergency measures in place, to failure to inspect hazardous waste areas.

At that time, EPA requested information and documentation related to the handling of solid and hazardous waste at the facility. The request was part of the legal process that EPA uses to pinpoint problems at facilities and bring them into compliance with all applicable waste handling regulations as soon as possible. The facility's May 2004 response to the request was nearly six months late and incomplete.

New York City and OCME have the opportunity to plead their case before an administrative law judge or to contact EPA to negotiate an informal settlement of the matter.