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Release Date: 6/3/1998
Contact Information: For more information contact the Office of External Affairs at (214) 665-2200.

     More than $3 million in environmental projects and penalties was  assessed or negotiated during the first quarter of 1998 in Region 6, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Regional Administrator Gregg A. Cooke announced in Dallas today.

     "EPA’s primary goal is to help companies comply with the laws enacted to protect our nation’s public health and environment. That said, the public should not tolerate any person or corporation that intentionally contaminates our air, water or land," Cooke said.

     EPA closed 71 cases for nearly $2 million in penalties. The Agency also negotiated with violators to spend more than $1 million in environmental projects to protect public health and the environment.

     One example is Red Fox Companies of New Iberia, La., which agreed to a $36,300 penalty for violating federal rules governing hazardous waste storage. During a compliance evaluation in August 1997, inspectors found drums of hazardous waste being stored in a manner that potentially could allow contamination of adjacent land and area groundwater. Red Fox has reduced the amount of hazardous waste the facility generates and provided documentation of proper disposal of hazardous waste which had been stored on the property.

     More than 200 legal actions were begun during the same reporting period. These enforcement actions range from penalties for not reporting hazardous chemicals, thus violating Community Right to Know rules, to protecting public health by requiring municipal water treatment facilities to stop discharging effluent in the Region’s waterways.

     Inspections for compliance with underground storage tank regulations resulted in more than 40 field citations. Federal regulations became effective Dec. 22, 1988, requiring any tanks installed underground to have corrosion protection, spill and overfill prevention, and release detection systems. Owners of existing tanks were allowed 10 years, until Dec. 22, 1998,  to upgrade the tanks to meet the current standards or to remove them.

     EPA estimates there are about 150,000 buried storage tanks in the five states of Region 6. Recent inspections indicate only 30 percent to 40 percent of those meet the standards.

     "These tanks are the most common source of groundwater contamination. Compliance with federal and state underground tank regulations is critical if we are to protect this valuable resource," Cooke said.

     EPA and state environmental agencies have increased compliance inspections to ensure that tank owners are working to meet the December deadline. Generally, field citations, with penalties ranging from $50 to $300 per violation, are issued for minor violations which can be corrected in 30 to 60 days.  However, if there is a history of non-compliance or the violations are numerous, substantially larger penalties are imposed.

     Region 6 includes Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.