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Vermont Metal-Finishing Company Fined for Clean Air Act Violations; Settlement is Part of EPA Initiative Focused on Metal Finishing Industry

Release Date: 04/26/2001
Contact Information: Mark Merchant, EPA Press Office (617-918-1013) Amy Miller, EPA Press Office (617-918-1042)

BOSTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced it has settled an administrative penalty action against a Springfield, Vt. firm for violations of the federal Clean Air Act.

The settlement, which stems from a June 1997 inspection, calls for Springfield Electroplating to pay a $4,500 fine over 18 months and to spend $72,465 over five years on environmental improvements at its facility. The five-year period begins Sept. 15, 2002.

Springfield Electroplating's shop specializes in chrome and nickel plating. During the inspection, EPA found the company was operating its chromium electroplating tanks without any emissions controls and without conducting required monitoring and testing for chromium emissions into the air.

Failure to have emissions controls and conduct testing likely led to a release of excess chromium into the air around the plant. Evidence shows that certain types of chromium emissions cause lung cancer, while other types can accumulate in the lungs and cause breathing problems.

Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA sets limits on how much of a pollutant can be in the air anywhere in the United States to ensure all Americans have the same basic health and environmental protections. One of the tools EPA employs to determine those limits are requirements for companies to monitor how much pollution they release from their facilities and report those findings. The Clean Air Act also established work practice requirements to ensure workers are not subjected to dangerous levels of air pollutants.

"Given the toxicity of the chemicals that metal finishers work with, it is especially important for companies such as Springfield Electroplating to comply with environmental laws," said Ira Leighton, acting regional administrator of EPA New England. "When companies fail to monitor and report emissions from their plant, they are potentially putting people – their employees and neighbors – at risk."

As part of the proposed settlement, Springfield Electroplating will spend $72,465 to rebuild the wastewater treatment system at its shop, resulting in a reuse of treated wastewater and a decrease in the amount of nickel, chromium and copper release into the environment.

"The measure of success at EPA does not rest on how much we levy in fines, but in how much pollution we can prevent. Springfield Electroplating should be commended for do what it can to help reduce pollution in this case," Leighton said.

The EPA today also settled a similar Clean Air Act case with Central Plating of Walpole, N.H. also involving chromium emissions containment and monitoring. Springfield Electroplating and Central Plating are related corporate entities under the same ownership.

The complaint against Central Plating and Springfield Electroplating is part of a larger effort by EPA that includes assisting companies that clean or finish metal and educating them on relevant environmental regulations. EPA efforts to control pollution by the metal industry stems in part from regulations enacted in 1995 to regulate emissions of chromium, trichloroethylene and other toxic chemicals.

Much of the work with the metal industry is being done through EPA's Metal Finishing Strategic Goals Program, a 3-year-old program that is encouraging metal finishers to meet aggressive pollution reduction goals by the year 2002. The national program was launched in partnership with industry groups, environmental groups and state and local regulators.

Companies that sign up for the program – so far 50 New England metal finishers have done so – receive compliance and pollution prevention assistance. And, as companies work toward meeting the goals, they'll be rewarded with more flexible regulatory oversight from EPA and state environmental regulators.

More information on federal regulations and how to prevent pollution is available by calling EPA's Office of Assistance and Pollution Prevention, or visit the Web site