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EPA proposes major penalty against R.I. company for hazardous waste violations

Release Date: 09/23/2003
Contact Information: Peyton Fleming, EPA Press Office, 617-918-1008

BOSTON - The US Environmental Protection Agency has proposed a $1.3 million civil penalty against a North Kingstown, RI company for extensive hazardous waste handling violations at its facility in Quonset Point Industrial Park.

Ultra Scientific Inc., a company that manufacturers chemical standards used by laboratories for quality control testing and instrument calibration, is accused in EPA's complaint of dozens of violations discovered during a two-day inspection last year. The violations took place at its 18,000-square-foot production building and seven large containers outside the building that are used to store hazardous wastes.

"The size and scope of this civil complaint reflects the extremely unsafe manner in which this company was handling and storing hazardous wastes," said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA's New England Office. "The situation we encountered last year could have resulted in a number of potentially dangerous scenarios, particularly for company employees who received inadequate training in handling these materials."

Varney said many of the hazardous materials were removed after the inspection, thus reducing the overall potential health threat at the site.

Varney said some of the violations were so serious that EPA inspectors were unable to complete an inventory of hundreds of types of hazardous waste in one of the containers. For example, inspectors observed the co-storage of many incompatible wastes, including a container of waste acids and a container of waste cyanide which can interact to produce acutely toxic hydrogen cyanide gas.

The inspection was done jointly by EPA and R.I. Department of Environmental Management employees on Sept. 18 and 20, 2002. Local fire and building code officials accompanied the environmental inspectors.. The inspection was done at the request of DEM which had done an earlier inspection at the site on Aug. 8, 2002. Ultra Scientific failed to correct the violations after the first DEM inspection.

The EPA inspection found the following violations of state and federal hazardous waste management regulations:

    • failure to minimize the potential for release of hazardous wastes.
    • failure to provide secondary containment for containers holding hazardous waste
    • failure to conduct hazardous waste determinations
    • failure to take precautions to prevent accidental ignitions of ignitable waste
    • failure to separate incompatible waste
    • failure to maintain a contingency plan
    • failure to conduct weekly inspections of hazardous waste storage areas
    • failure to have a device capable of summoning emergency equipment in a hazardous waste storage area
    • failure to maintain a hazardous waste training plan
    • failure to provide training to employees managing hazardous waste
    • failure to maintain adequate aisle space
    • operation of a treatment facility without a permit
    • failure to appropriately label containers holding hazardous waste
    • failure to clearly mark the date of accumulation of each container of hazardous waste
    • failure to keep containers of hazardous waste closed when waste is not being added or removed
North Kingstown fire department and building officials also found several code violations. As a result of the inspection and follow up activities by EPA and local officials, the most serious conditions have been corrected to reduce the immediate risks posed by the facility.