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Release Date: 08/10/1998
Contact Information: Alice Kaufman, EPA Press Office, 617.565.4592

Boston - An Administrative Law Judge in Washington DC has ruled against a Connecticut manufacturing facility, finding that the company was in violation of federal environmental laws governing safe handling and disposal of polychlorinated biphenyl (PCBs). The Rogers Corporation of Rogers, CT, has been fined $281,400 for failing to act quickly to clean up oils that had dripped from its machines to an overflow area in a pump room in its plant, where they were found to be contaminated with PCBs. The plant, located at 245 Woodstock Rd. in East Woodstock, CT, makes foam products. The penalty decision was based on a three-day trial in April 1998.

Senior Litigation Counsel Gregory M. Kennan, EPA's attorney, said, "EPA believes that this was a serious violation warranting a substantial penalty. The evidence at trial supported EPA's claim that Rogers discovered the contamination and failed to clean it up for months."

Inspectors from the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection inspected the facility on two occasions in 1993 and observed oil discharges in a concrete holding area on the floor of the East Woodstock plant. The company had previously tested the oils and found them to be contaminated with PCBs.

According to court documents, Rogers received laboratory reports showing that the oil in the concrete containment area contained PCBs on June 21, 1993. By failing to clean up the PCB-contaminated oils until March 15, 1994, Rogers violated regulations issued under the Toxic Substances Control Act, the law that spells out in detail the rules for handling and disposing of PCBs.

Administrative Law Judge Barbara Gunning based the $281,400 fine on factors specified in the law for calculating penalties. She found that Rogers committed a major violation by allowing 281.4 gallons of oil to be released into the containment area. She also found that "some workers were directly exposed to this PCB contaminated oil with little, if any, protection." The judge found that although the pump room door was kept locked and only a few employees (seven) had access to the room, respiratory protection equipment was not made available to workers entering the room; worker protection clothing was not recommended by the company until two months after discovering the contamination; and until seven months after the discovery there were no requirements that workers wear protective clothing in the contaminated area, clean up or shower after leaving the room, or remove boots before leaving the area.

PCBs are no longer manufactured but remain in use as non-conductive, heat-resistant additives to coolant liquids in heavy electrical equipment and other industrial machinery. They are extremely stable chemical compounds in the environment, and are suspected carcinogens in humans. Exposure to PCBs can cause liver problems and chloracne, a persistent skin rash.