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EPA-NEW ENGLAND POSTS BANNER YEAR ON ENFORCEMENT / COMPLIANCE ASSISTANCE FRONT
Release Date: 04/16/1999
Contact Information: Peyton Fleming, EPA Press Office (617-918-1008)
BOSTON - Following through on the agency's pledge to get a bigger environmental bang from enforcement penalties, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's New England Office had a banner year last year in negotiating innovative environmental projects in settling enforcement cases with violators.
More than $2.2 million of environmental improvement projects in New England were funded last year through enforcement settlements, including water sampling programs for the Charles and Mystic Rivers in Massachusetts, pollution prevention programs benefitting the Blackstone River and the Connecticut River, a statewide lead abatement initiative in Rhode Island and an environmental compliance assistance training program for college and university laboratories all across New England.
"Rather than sending all enforcement penalties to the U.S. Treasury, we're giving violators the opportunity to undertake projects that are markedly improving the environment and public health here in New England," said John P. DeVillars, EPA's New England Administrator. "We're seeing the benefits of these projects all across the region, particularly in neighborhoods and communities where these environmental infractions took place."
"Violators also benefit because they pay reduced penalties in these kinds of settlements," DeVillars added. "We still collect penalty dollars and, by doing so, send the message that non-compliance with environmental laws will not be tolerated."
The $2.26 million of projects last year - nearly double the $1.2 million of projects (known officially as Supplemental Environmental Projects) done in 1997 - are among numerous highlights in EPA-New England's enforcement and compliance assistance performance in 1998. The accomplishments include the following:
- Continuing the agency's focus on environmental noncompliance by public agencies, EPA-New England brought 36 cases last year against public agencies with proposed penalties totaling nearly $3 million. More than 270 enforcement actions have been taken against public agencies since 1995. Among the agencies cited last year were the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority for violating federal drinking water requirements, the R.I. Department of Transportation for hazardous waste and oil spill violations, and numerous municipalities for violations of wastewater discharge requirements.
- More than 5,000 underground storage tanks (USTs) in New England were upgraded or closed last year as tank owners moved to comply with federal UST regulations, which had a compliance deadline of Dec. 22, 1998. Due in large part to EPA's and the New England states' enforcement and compliance assistance efforts, the six New England states have some of the highest compliance rates in the country, with Maine leading the way at 99 percent. EPA continued its enforcement presence on USTs last year, issuing nearly two-dozen field citations to municipalities whose tanks were out of compliance.
- EPA-New England had another record year in providing technical and pollution prevention assistance to business and industry, with 143 on-site visits (nearly double from 1997) and 13,600 responses to assistance requests (up by more than 2,000 from 1997). The agency also co-sponsored 70 pollution prevention and compliance assistance workshops and made more than 250 presentations.
- EPA-New England continued to target specific industry sectors for "dual-track" enforcement activity and compliance assistance - among those, the metal finishing industry, auto repair and body shops, public agencies and, most recently, universities and colleges. As an example, the agency's New England Environmental Assistance Team (NEEAT) worked aggressively to improve the environmental performance of metal finishers across New England by providing guidance manuals, local training and slide shows all geared exclusively for metal finishers. At the same time, EPA undertook a targeted inspection program, resulting in 10 enforcement actions against metal finishers.
- EPA-New England continued to devote a major share of its enforcement resources to complex, ground-breaking cases which involved the most serious violations of environmental laws. Among the major cases: an aggressive enforcement action against General Electric to force a $250 million cleanup of PCB contamination in the Housatonic River and the City of Pittsfield and a lawsuit to force the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority to provide drinking water filtration for 2 million Boston-area residents.
- The agency overall enforcement presence remained strong, with 956 inspections and the issuance of 54 penalty orders, 55 consent agreements, 70 field citations and 18 referrals of civil cases to the U.S. Department of Justice. More than 200 of the inspections took place in the region's urban centers, with about 100 of those in EPA's priority urban areas - Boston, Providence, R.I. and Hartford, Conn.
- EPA-NE continued to work closely with the agency's Criminal Investigation Division to maintain a strong criminal enforcement presence. The agency obtained indictments against 23 defendants, referred 16 new cases to the U.S. Department of Justice and secured nearly $2 million in donations for open space land acquisition. Among the noteworthy cases was a $7 million criminal fine paid by the Eklof Marine Corp. for the 1996 oil spill off the coast of Rhode Island. It is the largest oil spill fine ever in the continental United States. The agency also secured 15 criminal sentences, including an eight-month jail term last fall to a Bangor, Maine business owner for his role in a freon smuggling operation in Maine and Canada.
- Settling an enforcement case initiated by EPA last spring, the R.I. Department of Transportation agreed last December to spend $438,000 to help remove lead-contaminated paints and soils from licensed daycare centers all across Rhode Island. The lead abatement project was initiated in response to severe lead poisoning among Rhode Island's children, especially in the urban areas. DOT also agreed to spend $15,000 to fund two one-day environmental compliance training sessions for Rhode Island's municipalities. The enforcement case stemmed from widespread environmental violations at a DOT facility in downtown Providence.
- After being cited by EPA for numerous hazardous waste violations, the Genzyme Corp. in Cambridge, Mass. agreed last fall to fund a three-month water quality assessment that will be undertaken this summer in the Charles River. The sampling will include dry-weather monitoring, seasonal water quality data gathering and changes that result from the cleanup of the river. Genzyme also agreed to help undertake efforts to map storm water outflows and develop water sampling programs in the Mystic River watershed. The company also agreed to help coordinate construction of an interim fish ladder between the Lower and Upper Mystic Lakes. The three projects will cost an estimated $106,900.
- As part of a settlement of an enforcement case with Pfizer Inc., the Groton, Conn.-based pharmaceutical manufacturer agreed last fall to launch an environmental compliance and pollution prevention project, valued at $150,000, that will benefit university laboratories all across New England. The project will begin with an extensive compliance and pollution prevention assessment at the University of Rhode Island. Information from the assessment will then be used to prepare software programs and manuals, which will then be offered as part of subsequent training sessions at two additional university laboratories. The training materials will also be made available to university laboratories all across New England. The enforcement case stemmed from multiple illegal discharges into the Thames River and hazardous waste violations at Pfizer facilities.
- As part of the settlement of a Superfund case, parties at the Landfill and Resource Recovery Superfund Site in North Smithfield, R.I. agreed to spend $428,000 to purchase a fragile 30-acre wetlands area along the Blackstone River in Lincoln. The parcel, situated next to one of northern Rhode Island's most significant wildlife marshes, will be preserved as a conservation area. The acquisistion was finalized last spring.
- Stemming from environmental violations at the Plymouth nuclear power plant, an EPA settlement with Boston Edison required the company to fund a comprehensive hazardous waste compliance audit for 80 municipal properties in the Town of Plymouth. Boston Edison also agreed to develop a comprehensive pollution prevention plan for the town and to purchase emergency response equipment for Plymouth's Emergency Planning Commission, Fire Department, Police Department and municipal airport. The projects were worth an estimated $155,000.