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U.S. EPA reduces fine for Petaluma company from $27,719 to zero for self reporting violations; Helix Polycold reported and corrected toxic chemical release information

Release Date: 8/3/2005
Contact Information: Mark Merchant, 415-947-4297

SAN FRANCISCO – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently settled with Helix Polycold Systems Inc. of Petaluma, Calif. for its failure to submit toxic chemical reports, violations of the federal Emergency Planning and Community-Right-to-Know Act. Because the facility self-disclosed these violations to EPA, the potential $27,719 penalty against the facility was reduced to zero.

Helix Polycold - a manufacturer of cryogenic refrigeration systems - located at 3800 Lakeville Highway, Petaluma, failed to submit timely, complete, and correct reports regarding the amounts of copper processed at its facility. The company discovered the error during a routine environmental audit and immediately reported it to the EPA

“This is a good example of how the EPA and industry can work together,” said Enrique Manzanilla EPA’s Communities and Ecosystems Division Director for the Pacific Southwest region. “Helix reported the violations and corrected them, ensuring the company complied with federal law and the records are now correct for public use.”

Federal Law requires certain facilities using chemicals over specified amounts to file annual reports of chemical releases with the EPA and the state. The reports estimate the amounts released to the environment, treated or recycled on-site or transferred off-site for waste management. This information is then compiled into a national database called the Toxics Release Inventory and made available to the public. The premise behind the program is that the public has a right to know about toxic chemical releases, and that facilities have a responsibility to inform surrounding communities about their use and release of toxic chemicals.

Under the agency’s audit policy, the EPA may reduce penalties up to 100 percent for violations that are voluntarily discovered, promptly disclosed to the agency and quickly corrected. Because Helix disclosed the reporting errors and met additional criteria, the agency applied the policy, reducing the potential $27,719 fine to zero.

Enacted in 1986, the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act requires that reports detailing toxic chemical releases and waste management activities be submitted annually. Facilities that don’t submit timely reports not only fail to comply with the annual reporting requirement, but fail to make toxic release data available to states and the public in a timely manner.

More information about the Audit Policy can be found at: