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U.S. EPA fines Romic $20,000 for failing to notify authorities after chemical release

Release Date: 08/20/2007
Contact Information: Wendy Chavez, 415-947-4248

SAN FRANCISCO – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently fined Romic Environmental Technologies Inc. $20,000 for failing to immediately notify the National Response Center after approximately 1,105 pounds of catechol were released to the air on June 5, 2006 -- causing the East Palo Alto Police Department to issue a shelter-in-place order.

Emergency responders arrived on scene at the East Palo Alto, Calif. facility, located at 2081 Bay Road, immediately after the release. The shelter-in-place order was lifted an hour later after the problem was contained and no longer a threat to the surrounding community. Romic notified the National Response Center 16 hours later.

“Companies working with toxic chemicals have a responsibility to their employees and the surrounding neighborhood to immediately report these releases,” said Keith Takata, the EPA's Superfund director for the Pacific Southwest region. “When a business fails to quickly provide critical information to authorities, a community's ability to respond during an emergency may suffer.”

Approximately 4,000 gallons of a chemical mixture that contained hydroxylamine, monoethanolamine, toluene, acetonitrile, and included approximately 1,105 pounds of pyrocatechol released to the environment in the form of a fine mist that settled approximately over more than 2 acres, including an adjoining empty lot, Bay Road, a PG&E substation, and the Laumeister and Faber Tract marshes.

Federal law requires immediate notification of a reportable release in order for emergency response teams to evaluate the nature and extent of a hazardous substance release, prevent exposure and minimize consequences. The reportable quantity for catechol is 100 pounds.

Pyrocatechol, or catechol, is a hazardous substance under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act. The substance is a phenol, a group of chemicals that are toxic poisons to humans, being corrosive and irritating to mucous membranes and the respiratory tract.

Romic is a hazardous waste recycling facility that has been in operation since 1964. The company treats hazardous waste at the facility in tanks and other containers, and transports materials into and from the facility in tanker trucks and drums.